2012 Election: Twelve GOP Candidates Who Might Challenge Obama

Newt Gingrich

Newt Gingrich
Pro: The former House Speaker is often described as the best "ideas guy" in the Republican Party. Through his political advocacy group, American Solutions, he has advanced what he calls "tripartisan" solutions to creating jobs, fostering energy independence and reforming education. Gingrich, who recently converted to Catholicism because of his wife, stays in the public limelight as a Fox News contributor and prolific author.

Con: While Gingrich covets the increased attention that comes from being covered as a potential presidential candidate, most Republican insiders think he will ultimately pass on a 2012 race. Although he is revered by conservative activists for leading the GOP to its first House majority in 40 years, many Republicans remember his tenure as Speaker as a stormy one. There is also a concern that Gingrich's personal and political baggage from the 1990s would impede the GOP's ability to make the election a referendum on the Obama administration.

Mike Huckabee

Mike Huckabee
Pro: The former Arkansas governor is one of the most gifted talkers in American politics. Witty and soundbite-friendly, he stunned the political world in 2008 by beating the much-better funded Romney in the Iowa caucuses. Huckabee, a former pastor, has a strong following among evangelical Christians who appreciate his steadfast support for the sanctity of life. He was an early and consistent opponent of the Wall Street bailout and has a politician's knack for remembering names and ingratiating himself with those with whom he comes into contact. Huckabee continues to do better than any other Republican presidential candidate in hypothetical match-ups with President Obama, according to recent public opinion polls.

Con: Despite his incredible win in the Iowa caucuses in 2008, Huckabee never put together the kind of national staff or national fundraising network which would have allowed him to overcome Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., for the nomination. One reason why Huckabee did not advance further than he did was that he was targeted by the anti-tax Club for Growth which accuses him of going along with higher taxes in Arkansas during his tenure as governor. Huckabee's stock was hurt last year when word spread that he granted clemency to notorious cop-killer Maurice Clemmons. Although the clemency has not yet hurt his standing with the public, it will probably become the subject of attack ads if he becomes a candidate for the GOP presidential nomination. It's not clear whether Huckabee, who has put on weight since 2008, still has the same drive that he had last time.

Ron Paul

Ron Paul
Pro:: The representative from Texas is weighing another run for president if the country's economy does not improve before the start of the nominating process. Paul, an OB/GYN doctor by trade, has delivered more than 4,000 babies. He surprised political observers in 2008 by outraising several of his better-known GOP rivals. Paul's legion of devoted followers were drawn to his record of backing low taxes, free markets, sound money and a noninterventionist foreign policy.

Con: If Paul runs for president again in 2012, he will be forced to compete with former New Mexico Gov. Gary Johnson for the support of Libertarian-leaning Republicans. Paul would also be the oldest candidate in the field: He will be 77 by the next presidential election.

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