Saturday, January 22, 2011

Republicans Test the Waters for 2012 Presidential Race

At LAT, "Republican Hopefuls Lay Groundwork for 2012":
By one measure, the 2012 presidential campaign is off to a slow start.

No major candidate has officially jumped in, unlike four years ago, when nine White House hopefuls had declared their bids by the end of January 2007. Mindful that the first nominating contests in Iowa and New Hampshire might be pushed back a month, and wary of an anti-incumbent mood among voters that could make life difficult for a front-runner, potential Republican candidates are staying on the sidelines for now.

But by another measure — money — the campaign is in high gear.

President Obama's potential challengers are busy cultivating donors, recruiting staff and testing campaign messages — conducting proxy campaigns that illuminate the approach they would take as White House hopefuls.

Some are building sizeable war chests through so-called leadership political action committees, which can collect as much as $5,000 per contributor for use in political activities not directly related to an official presidential candidacy. Others are using private groups to raise money and promote causes that may figure in their future campaigns.

Because the top likely contenders are not federal officeholders, they can raise money through state PACs, including those that have few or no limits on corporate and individual contributions.

By waiting to register with the Federal Election Commission as presidential candidates, they can raise money in large-dollar amounts and also keep lucrative television gigs that they would have to relinquish as candidates.

"The way the system is set up, it permits people to go around and spend some time effectively testing the waters," said E. Mark Braden, an election law attorney who served as general counsel to the Republican National Committee. "On the whole, so long as prospective candidates avoid saying, 'I'm running,' or some synonym of that, the [Federal Election Commission] has pretty much avoided getting involved in that gray area."
More at the link.

The article discusses the progress of the top-tier likely candidates, especially Mitt Romney and Sarah Palin. There's also discussion of Pawlenty, Barbour, and Gingrich, none of whom I expect to do well. Mike Huckabee is mentioned only in passing, although I expect he'll be top-tier, and by the end of the primaries will likely be one of the last three standing, along with Romney and Palin.

Romney Wins New Hampshire Republican Party Committee Straw Poll" (via Memeorandum). And at The Other McCain, "Herman Cain Tops Santorum, Christie, Daniels, Pence, Huckabee in N.H."