2012 Election: Twelve GOP Candidates Who Might Challenge Obama

Sarah Palin

Sarah Palin
Pro: The former Alaska governor is the No. 1 star in the GOP. No other Republican is capable of attracting the same kinds of crowds and media attention that she can. Her recently published memoir, "Going Rogue," sold like hotcakes. Since stepping down as governor of Alaska, Palin has shown that she can get more attention with a post on her Facebook page than her rivals can get from giving a major policy address. As a woman who decided to go forward with her pregnancy even after she learned that her son, Trig, would have Down syndrome, Palin has a strong following in both the special needs and pro-life communities.

Con: The downside with Palin is that her run for vice president in 2008 left many voters with the impression that she lacks the intellectual firepower to be president. According to an ABC News/Washington Post poll conducted in November, three out of five Americans think Palin is not qualified to be president. Although her resignation as governor of Alaska freed her up to pursue one of the most widely publicized book tours of all time, the resignation fed an image of her as highly volatile -- not necessarily a quality one would look for in a potential commander-in-chief. Palin told Oprah Winfrey on Jan. 22 that her gig as a Fox News contributor does not preclude her from running for president in 2012. Some Republican leaders say, however, that she is more interested in enriching herself than in building the party. Other Republican officials note that the fascination with her is akin to the fascination with celebrities and that it would not necessarily translate into political support once the nominating season begins. Finally, she has not put together the kind of staff typically required to run a successful national campaign.

Tim Pawlenty

Tim Pawlenty
Pro: The Minnesota governor is packaging himself as a conservative who managed to win and govern in a state which has produced such well-known liberals as Eugene McCarthy, Hubert Humphrey, Walter Mondale, Paul Wellstone and Al Franken. "If I can do it in Minnesota, we can do it elsewhere," he likes to say. Pawlenty, who has talked about the GOP as being "the Party of Sam's Club," is the personable son of a truck driver who is good at portraying the GOP as the party which delivers a better value than the Democrats. Pawlenty was as active as anyone in 2009. He has hired a large and experienced staff and he is not seeking re-election this year so that he can campaign full-time for president if he makes the final decision to move forward with a White House run.

Con: Pawlenty's weakness is that he does not enjoy Romney's personal wealth and he is overshadowed by Palin's star power. He also came under scrutiny last year when Dan Balz of the Washington Post characterized his moves to the right as being "Romneyesque."

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