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Republicans still looking for Mr. Right

at 08:38 AM ET, 04/19/2011

Less than half of all Republicans in a new Washington Post-ABC News poll are satisfied with their choices in the 2012 presidential field — numbers that run well behind the 2008 race and suggests the 2012 race remains ripe for a late entry.

Just 43 percent proclaimed themselves satisfied with their options, a far cry from the 65 percent who said the same at this time in the 2008 race.

The lack of GOP enthusiasm was evident in other portions of the poll, too. In a hypothetical Republican primary ballot, former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney led the way with 16 percent, followed by “no one/not any of them” at 12 percent. (Unlike some other polls, the question was asked open-ended, meaning no names were given to respondents.)

It’s important to remember that it’s still very early in the presidential process — no votes of any sort will be cast for another 293 days — and that there is a natural tendency among voters to pine for the one that got away rather than the people who are in the race.

It’s why we’ve seen late entries in the last two contested presidential elections — Gen. Wesley Clark for Democrats in 2004 and former Tennessee senator Fred Thompson for Republicans in 2008.

While each man rose to the top (or near it) of polls in advance of the announcement of their candidacies, both ultimately flopped on the trail, as the hype didn’t live up to expectations.

Clark and Thompson are rightly viewed as cautionary tales for those on the outside wondering whether to get into the race. That said, however, there does appear to be more of a vacuum in this Republican race than traditionally has been the case.

A look at the primary ballot reveals a level of uncertainty. Outside of Romney, no candidate wins double-digit support. And, the next three top finishers are celebrity Donald Trump, former Arkansas governor Mike Huckabee and former Alaska governor Sarah Palin — none of whom are sure things to ultimately run. (Trump’s rise, in and of itself, is a testament to the dissatisfaction with the GOP options.)

If all three take a pass — a totally plausible scenario — another 20 percent of GOP voters will be without their preferred candidate, further adding to the fluidity of the field.

Put simply: The opportunity is ripe for someone with the fiscally conservative focus of an Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels or, less likely, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, to get into the race and immediately begin winning over Republicans dissatisfied with their current options.

Daniels has agonized publicly about whether or not to run — making clear that he believes an opportunity exists for him but being unwilling (so far) to pull the trigger. An announcement is likely either by the end of the month or early May. He may look at these numbers and find it simply too hard to stay out.

DCCC targets 25 Republicans on Medicare: The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee is going up with radio ads, phone calls and grassroots messaging efforts in 25 districts, hitting Republicans for voting for a House GOP budget that Democrats contend would “end Medicare.”

“Did you know Congressman Chip Cravaack (R-Minn.) voted to end Medicare, forcing seniors to pay $12,500 for private health insurance, without guaranteed coverage?” says one ad. “Tell Cravaack to keep his hands off our Medicare.”

In addition to Cravaack, the media offensive will go after Reps. Rick Crawford (Ark.), Tim Griffin (Ark.), Paul Gosar (Ariz.), Dan Lungren (Calif.), Scott Tipton (Colo.), Daniel Webster (Fla.), Bill Young (Fla.), Vern Buchanan (Fla.), Tom Rooney (Fla.), Allen West (Fla.), David Rivera (Fla.), Tom Latham (Iowa), Steve King (Iowa), Bobby Schilling (Ill.), Larry Bucshon (Ind.), Dan Benishek (Mich.), Fred Upton (Mich.), Charlie Bass (N.H.), Ann Marie Buerkle (N.Y.), Steve Chabot (Ohio), Kristi Noem (S.D.), Francisco Canseco (Texas), Paul Ryan (Wis.) and Sean Duffy (Wis.).

The DCCC declined to say what the size of the ad buy is.

The next redistricting battle: Colorado: Things are getting heated early in the congressional redistricting process in Colorado, where the normally statesman-like Democratic state Senate president tore into the GOP state House speaker on Monday.

The speaker, Frank McNulty (R), had previously accused the Senate president, Brandon Shaffer (D), of trying to draw a seat for himself with the Democratic proposals.

And McNulty isn’t backing down: “Brandon Shaffer got his hand caught in the cookie jar. It’s no wonder he’s so upset.”

Colorado has a split legislature and a Democratic governor, meaning the process is split between the two parties. The Democrats are proposing maps that would give them a good chance to beat Rep. Mike Coffman (R) and could make things tougher for Rep. Scott Tipton (R), while the GOP is proposing a map very similar to the current one, which features a four-to-three GOP advantage. (To see the maps, go here.)

Fixbits:

Redstate.com’s Erick Erickson has endorsed former state Rep. Adam Hasner in the Florida GOP Senate primary.

Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour (R) is OK after back surgery.

The president made $1.7 million in 2010.

Just in case you wanted to see Sharron Angle sing “Proud to be an American.”

Rep. Jeff Denham (R-Calif.) paid more than $200,000 for a fundraiser with singer LeAnn Rimes and wound up netting just $650 from it.

Kentucky Gov. Steve Beshear (D) continued to raise good money for his reelection bid this year, pulling in $1.3 million between Jan. 1 and April 15.

Sen. Rand Pau l (R-Ky.) has already filed for his 2016 reelection race.

House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) raised more than anybody in the first quarter, pulling in $2.4 million.

Must-reads:

Same-sex marriage fight heats up” — Neftali Bendavid, Wall Street Journal

Arizona Legislature approves ballot measure to eliminate state funding for election campaigns” — AP

 
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