Democratic strategist Ed Kilgore looks at how the 2012 Republican primary race is shaking out. I think his take is a bit concern trollish, but I think he is right about how big of a problem the family resemblance between Obamacare and Romneycare will be for Romney. Huckabee would seem to have the clearest path to the nomination. His social conservatism is articulate, authentic, and a strength rather than a weakness. He talks the populist economic rap as well as anyone. He is very likeable. His biggest weakness is that I haven't seen him take a hard shot on the FairTax. I'm not sure how well his support holds up when it becomes clear he wants to slap on a 30% sales tax. I'm not sure Palin is running, and I'm not sure how well she would do in a crowded primary. It isn't that I think she would do badly in the Republican debates (she knows her audience), but I do think she risks being diminished if she doesn't do great and seems no better than solid performers like Huckabee and Mike Pence. Gingrich's personal history will probably keep him from the nomination.
I think that all of the Republicans who are currently polling best are vulnerable to bleeding support as the nomination contest unfolds. There is plenty of space for a not-very-well-known candidate to emerge from the Republican presidential debates of 2011 and become the anti-Huck/anti-Romney/anti-Palin/anti-Gingrich. They will have to seem more authentically conservative than Romney, more orthodox on taxes than Huckabee, more electable than Palin, and less baggage-encrusted than Gingrich. Who will it be? Well, maybe no one, but it depends on who runs. I would prefer it were Mitch Daniels, but I think John Thune and Mike Pence are better positioned to hit that sweet spot of being the freshest, most conservative, most (seemingly) electable candidate who is acceptable to the most kinds of Republican primary voters.