2012 contenders struggle for position one day after historic midterm wins

Republicans eyeing a challenge to President Obama in 2012 didn’t waste much time positioning themselves for a White House bid, doing so one day after the historic midterm elections.

The GOP hopefuls cheered the wave on Election Day that won the House back for Republicans and resulted in gains that significantly chopped down the Democratic majority in the Senate.

Former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney (R) got out of the gate early with an op-ed in The Washington Post urging the president to make an about-face on issues like government spending, entitlements and taxes.


“The president can turn his party’s losses Tuesday into a win for the country,” he wrote. “It all depends on the course he sets.”
Romney has attracted criticism from conservatives for the healthcare bill he helped make law in Massachusetts. In his op-ed, Romney didn’t explicitly call for the repeal of Obama’s overhaul, though he has previously called for its eradication.

Romney was far from the only Republican eyeing a run for president in two years who tried to have his say on Wednesday.

“On Tuesday, the American people spoke loudly and clearly,” Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty said in a Web video Wednesday, lauding some GOP victors and touting his political action committee’s work to support them. “They told President Obama, Nancy Pelosi and the Democratic-controlled Congress they’ve had enough.”

Some political observers said Pawlenty’s presidential stock would take a hit if his protege, Tom Emmer, fell short in the gubernatorial race to replace him. The contest between Emmer and former Sen. Mark Dayton (D-Minn.) appears headed for a recount.

Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich (R-Ga.), meanwhile, trumpeted Republicans’ victories this fall as more significant than those of the 1994 cycle, when Gingrich led the GOP to retake the House.

“Bigger — this is bigger than 1994,” Gingrich told reporters at his election-night party, as reported by the National Review. “It’s a more decisive repudiation, the total number of seats will be bigger, I think the governorships are bigger, I think the state-legislature things, like losing North Carolina for the first time since 1898, is bigger.”

Former Sen. Rick Santorum (R-Pa.), who has traveled repeatedly to key presidential primary states as well as congressional battlegrounds, said he is scheduled to make his sixth trip to the second-in-the-cycle nominating state of New Hampshire this week.

Rep. Mike Pence (Ind.) announced on Wednesday morning that he would not seek another term as chairman of the House Republican Conference so that he could consider pursuing other “opportunities,” a reference to a possible run for governor or president.

The Indiana conservative, who won a key straw poll of social conservatives at the Values Voter Summit earlier this year, was among a crowd of leading Republicans with an eye on the White House who had professed a singular focus on the 2010 elections.

On the other hand, Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour (R) was openly mulling a bid.

“I am going to think about it,” Barbour said Tuesday. The chairman of the Republican Governors Association (RGA) has led the party to a net gain of seven governorships, with some still undecided.

Barbour is sure to pick up buzz among Republicans who admire the work he’s done for the party over the past two years, having built the RGA into a fundraising powerhouse that won several major contests. Barbour, a former chairman of the Republican National Committee, is considered one of the GOP’s best strategists.
Other Republicans who may run for the White House also scored major victories on Tuesday.

Sen. John ThuneJohn Randolph ThuneTrump muddles Republican messaging on Afghanistan The Memo: Trump's critics face wrath of GOP base GOP wrestles with role of culture wars in party's future MORE (R-S.D.), who was up for reelection this year but faced no opponent, spent the better part of the fall helping Republican Kristi Noem successfully unseat Rep. Stephanie Herseth Sandlin (S.D.), a leader of the Blue Dog Democrats.

Thune had also invested heavily in helping Republican Senate candidates, a strategy similar to Sen. Jim DeMint’s (R-S.C.) work to elect conservatives this fall.

DeMint, who said in September he will not run for president, took an active role in Republican Senate primaries this year. He endorsed many of the candidates aligned with the Tea Party movement who knocked off incumbents or candidates preferred by the GOP establishment in primaries this year.

“The next campaign begins today,” DeMint wrote in a Wall Street Journal op-ed advising those new conservative senators. “Because you must now overcome determined party insiders if this nation is going to be spared from fiscal disaster.”

DeMint famously said healthcare would be Obama’s “Waterloo.”

DeMint, like former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin (R), suffered from a mixed record in his endorsements. Many of the 77 candidates Palin endorsed in the general election ended up winning, but high-profile candidates she backed, such as Sharron Angle in Nevada and Christine O’Donnell in Delaware, suffered defeat. (Many of those high-profile candidates had also been supported by DeMint.)

Former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee (R), who won the Iowa caucus in 2008, played a major role (along with Santorum) in ousting judges on that state’s high court who voted to legalize same-sex marriage. It is unclear if Huckabee, who hosts a talk show on the Fox News Channel, will mount a 2012 bid.

Another candidate who stands to gain from his campaigning is Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels (R), who focused his efforts on winning back his state’s Legislature. Daniels got his wish as Republicans won back the state House on Tuesday.