Newt Gingrich: The former Georgia congressman wants to become the first speaker of the House to win the White House since James K. Polk did it in 1844.
Pros: Putting some daylight between his time in Congress and run for the presidency was a smart move. Think of service in the House as an upbringing in Bakersfield: Nobody wants to live there, but it’s a good place to be from. Newt also has a huge platform to push the brand as a regular political analyst on the Fox News Channel. The impact of Fox can’t be understated in a Republican primary — FNC gets more eyeballs than CNN, MSNBC, and Toddlers & Tiaras.
Cons: It’s never good to be the Southern Baptist turned Roman Catholic in the race and still have more wives than the Mormon candidate. In a recent interview with the Christian Broadcasting Network, “Naughty Newt” rationalized his life as a playa by saying he just had an unquenchable thirst for vitamin P…which, of course, is a reference to his patriotism: “There’s no question that at times in my life, partially driven by how passionately I felt about this country, that I worked far too hard and things happened in my life that were not appropriate.” Good luck selling that in Iowa.
Chances: Slim and None. And Slim just left the building.
Mitt Romney: The former Massachusetts governor would be the first Mormon president.
Pros: Mitt Romney looks like a president. He’s tall, dark, and handsome, and the country also likes to send governors to the White House (16 so far). Republicans are also brand whores — they like to nominate candidates who have run before and lost. Ronald Reagan, Bob Dole, George H.W. Bush, and Richard Nixon come to mind. This race would be Romney’s second try for the big prize. Mitt just needs to hope he’s more Pepsi than Crystal Pepsi.
Cons: He’s a Mormon. If you’re part of the crowd who believes that Barack Obama is a Muslim Kenyan, you’re also not likely to drag yourself through the snow to go vote for a guy who goes to “temple.” In other words, Team Romney shouldn’t count on Pat Boone being a precinct captain. The bigger problem for Romney may end up being the health care bill he signed into law while serving as governor of Massachusetts. The difference between RomneyCare and Obama-Care is like the difference between Mary-Kate and Ashley Olsen.
Chances: Romney is the DoubleTree Hotel of presidential candidates: He’s everyone’s second choice.
Sarah Palin: The former Alaska governor would be the country’s first woman president.
Pros: Sarah Palin is the only rock star in the Republican Party. A GOP field without Sarah Palin is like the Jackson 5 without Michael. Palin’s other top quality is that the Republican establishment hates her. In a year that’s going to include rising gasoline prices, high unemployment, and uncertainly abroad, being a social pariah on the Washington cocktail party circuit may not be such a bad thing. And how much more of an outsider can you get than being a woman in Wasilla, Alaska?
Cons: The level of hatred for her among her political opponents is off the charts. The mere mention of her name around seemingly calm liberals turns them into Charlie Sheen on the roof with a machete. If she runs, the question won’t be, Will some unhinged liberal light himself on fire and run at her? The question will be, Which MSNBC host will do it?
Palin’s résumé is also going to be a problem. If Americans sour on President Obama because they think he’s in over his head, they’re going to want a candidate with some miles on his or her tires — and not in a Larry Craig kind of way. Two years as governor of Alaska is still under warranty.
Chances: The favorite in the primary…a long shot in the general.