Note: This column was co-written by brother and closest confidant, Devlin Sweeney. He is a WWU junior, majoring in accounting, and is going to make way more money than I some day.
With the creeping presidential election schedule, a serious candidate has to run for two solid years to be a strong contender for the presidency. With that in mind, the election cycle starts now.
For the Democrats, it is real simple. The nominee is President Obama. There is no way he would not seek the nomination and no one else wants to run against a sitting president. There might be a Dennis Kucinich-style protest candidate, but no one serious.
So our list here will focus on the Republican nomination. Here is our list of potential nominees, along with our predictions about how they will do. Please take everything with a grain of salt. This time last cycle, Hillary Clinton and Rudy Giuliani were the front-runners and they both got knocked out in the primary. So stake your bragging rights now. Tell us where we are wrong, whom we are missing, and so forth.
Mitt Romney: Former Gov. of Massachusetts. A high-rolling businessman with an impressive track record of turning around failing companies. Ran in 2008. Mega-gazzilionaire. Mormon.
Strengths: Tons of money. Supported by the Bushs, has a great deal of old guard support, good name recognition. Smooth and "presidential" looking.
Weaknesses: Looks like the guy who just laid you off, Mormon (which is a drawback with the evangelical crowd.)
Likely Outcome: Will be viewed as the front-runner and will take the most fire because of it. Will get hit for his health care plan, and do well in more battleground states but will have trouble in places like Iowa. Will have great staff and awesome fundraising, but unable to close the likeability gap. Frankly, he looks like the guy who just laid you off.
Sarah Palin: Former Gov. of Alaska. Current reality television star and Tea Party darling. Vice presidential candidate from 2008. Seriously, you don’t know who she is?
Strengths: Can fundraise like crazy. Motivates the base like nothing else. Near universal name recognition. Media eats her up with a spoon, reporting on every little thing she does.
Weaknesses: Media eats her up with a spoon, reporting on every little thing she does. She tends to make poor staffing choices and worse money decisions. Insular attitude makes it difficult to run a 50-state campaign.
Likely Outcome: Will do well in Iowa, but poorly in N.H. Fundraise like crazy, blow through it quickly. She will be the Rudy Giuliani of this year, but her endorsement will be highly prized, as she will determine who the Tea Party wing should back.
Mike Huckabee: Former Gov. of Arkansas. Candidate in 2008, came in 2nd in delegates, 3rd in popular vote. Trained as a Baptist pastor but dropped out to get involved in Christian broadcasting.
Strengths: Very personable and has a good sense of humor. Reasonably good name recognition. Very well known among evangelical community.
Weaknesses: Poor fundraising. A few mild controversies during his tenure as governor. Vulnerable to negative hit pieces because his skeletons have not been aired out nearly as thoroughly as Romney's and Palin’s.
Likely Outcome: My pick for the nominee. He will do well in Iowa but will do okay elsewhere, his success depends on at what point Palin's campaign goes up in fire. Can campaign cheap, but has experienced staff in most states.
Other People: There are a whole slew of people who are making noises but I doubt are going to get very far. I have listed them below with just a few notes on each.
Newt Gingrich – How many times has this guy thought about running? He doesn’t want to run, he wants to sell books and be influential. Most likely sought for an endorsement.
Gen. McCrystal - I don't think he will run, but I see his endorsement as being key, and as essential as Colin Powell’s was last cycle.
Bobby Jindal - I think he will sit this election out like last time. His governor’s seat is up for reelection this year so he would have to give up his office to take a real shot at this. Would be on the short list for anyone’s VP. Good executive experience, plus being a minority makes him a tempting "add" to a ticket.
Rand Paul – The new Tea Party darling. My gut tells me he will stay in the Senate and line up a run in 2016 for something bigger. Just inked a book deal, so probably promotes that for the next four years.
Haley Barbour – Gov. of Mississippi, with VERY impressive fundraising skills. Might be a good exclamation point to Mike Huckabee’s ticket (we are white, southern, Christian and male!!!!) Otherwise, count him out.
Eric Cantor - A rising star in the House, Eric Cantor seems to be everywhere at once. I see him popping up on television, in closed-door meetings, all over the place. He is lined up quite nicely to become Speaker of the House when John Boehner is done, but he might take a turn at running for president. Another possible VP.
Kay Bailey Hutchinson – If it weren’t for the Tea Party, I would have picked her as THE next vice presidential nominee. A wealth of foreign policy experience, sharp, capable, a woman able to motivate the base, and a moderate. What ticket wouldn’t want that? But the Tea Party is gunning for her, and I imagine she will be fighting for her political life just to hang on to her Senate seat. A darn shame.
John Thune - John who? This guy hasn’t made headlines since 2004 when he beat Tom Daschle, but he shows up on many lists as a potential candidate. If you are looking for a bland but non-controversial addition to your ticket, then I guess so. (Imagine Joe Biden minus the gaffs and experience, and you are there.)
Condoleezza Rice – She consistently impresses me with how articulate and sharp she is. If she hasn’t landed some serious corporate or academic job in the next couple of years, look for her to start making media appearances; she might decide to run for something.