Republican voters have sampled their party’s presidential choices, but are still left wanting.
An NBC/Wall Street Journal poll released last week found that less than half of GOP primary voters are “satisfied” with the Republican slate. And in a recent Pew study, when asked for their reaction to the current GOP field, Americans’ top three responses to the were “unimpressed,” “disappointed,” and “weak.”
It’s no surprise then that some voters are hoping for a white knight to leap into the fold and shake things up. Several polls bear this out, as they’ve shown non-candidates like Chris Christie and Rudy Giuliani running well or even topping the entire field.
So who are these dream candidates? And will any of them answer the call?
Secession-flirt and coyote-slayer: Three-term Texas Gov. Rick Perry has been reportedly sounding out a presidential bid of late, and especially now in the wake of Newt Gingrich’s campaign implosion. (Two of Perry’s top aides jumped ship on Gingrich as part of a mass staffer exodus.) Perry has some strong conservative cred, having called out Obama’s immigration and healthcare policies, while at times suggesting his state could thumb its nose at the administration and secede from the country. But that sort of talk may not fly so well in a general election — not to mention that voters may be wary of putting another Texas governor in the White House.
New Jersey Governor Chris Christie is perhaps the best example of this wishful thinking. Christie, a blunt, tough-talking governor who’s taken on teachers unions and pledged to cut state spending, has been hailed as a rising star in the Republican party. This month, a PPP poll showed him taking first place in a hypothetical nationwide primary ballot, even beating out current frontrunner Mitt Romney. However, Christie has insisted time and again that he won’t run for president in 2012. He once jokingly asked if he’d have to commit suicide to convince people he would definitely not join the race.
The former New York City Mayor’s campaign tanked in 2008, but he’s now making noise — or at least allowing noises to be made — about a possible comeback run in 2012. In January, he talked up a possible bid in a flurry of media appearances, and then came out swinging at Romney’s healthcare overhaul in June. He’s now hyping a meeting later this month with another might-run, Rick Perry (see above). In 2008, Giuliani leaned heavily on his leadership of the Big Apple on 9/11, though it’s doubtful that that issue will carry as much weight now with a decade gone by and bin Laden dead. His close ties to the city’s incarcerated former police commissioner Bernie Kerik still don’t help matters much.
Will Jeb Bush go for the family Triple Crown? Eh, probably not, at least not this time around. But that doesn’t mean conservatives aren’t hopeful. In February, The National Review ran a lengthy cover story on Bush’s tenure as governor of Florida, followed by a web article that opened, quite adamantly, with, “Jeb Bush should run now.” However, like Chris Christie, Bush has brushed off calls for him to take on Obama.
Sarah Palin is something of a wild card. For months, pundits have picked apart her every action like school children plucking petals off a flower — she’s running, she’s not running, she’s running, and so on. Palin consistently polls at the top of primary tests, running second only to Mitt Romney in most surveys. And her giant bus tour, which she said was only a family vacation, only added gas to the guessing game. If she does run, she’ll enjoy the support of a highly devoted following. And if not, there’s always more bus tours and talking head gigs to be had.
Alright, so Fred Thompson isn’t really a dream candidate in this election cycle. But Thompson exemplified this kind of candidate in 2008 when Republicans, hoping for a strong conservative choice, perked up at the prospect of the former Watergate attorney, turned actor, turned Senator, turned actor (again) jumping in the race. Of course, once Thompson got in, his viability flamed out quicker than a Law and Order marathon.