However Republicans must be concerned that none of the current crop appear likely to defeat Obama unless the economy suffers significantly greater setbacks in the next year. It's alarming to think that some radical Republicans may have this scenario in mind as they continue to stall on budget compromises and raising the debt ceiling, hoping to harm the economy enough to defeat Obama but not enough to send us into a tailspin. That calculation would not only be unpatriotic, it would be potentially disastrous for the country.
The current best bet appears to be that Mitt Romney will sort of plod into the Republican nomination with Michelle Bachmann pulling in the Tea Party folks, leaving moderate Republicans a choice between Rick Perry and Mitt Romney who are polling about equally in scenarios where Perry's in the ring (he has not announced yet but is very likely to do so if his numbers stay as high as now. RealClearPolitics has Romney at 18%, Perry at 17% in a race where all the strong potential candidates are placed in the ring. With only *announced* candidates, Romney's in a strong lead at 27% with Bachmann second with 18% , Ron Paul third with 11%.
Look for Palin to stay out of the race and hope for a VP spot on the likely Romney or Perry ticket. Look for Bachmann to *get* the VP spot on the Romney or Perry ticket, giving the Republicans a similar strategy to McCain / Palin but with much stronger candidates on the ticket.
In our view Obama's still in the driver's seat with respect to the 2012 election. Barring a serious economic setback, Americans are unlikely to want yet another major "change" in the White House so soon. Obama's kept his core constituency happy with only modest levels of alienation of those on the far left who naively felt Obama as President would act very consistently with Obama as young Chicago organizer. We're likely to see more liberal "progressive" politics from Obama in a second term, but it's clear that President Obama will continue to keep moderate democrats fairly happy while he continues to alienate the far left and right. It's a great political strategy and it won't change for the 2012 election.