Yesterday I talked about the more-or-less official beginnng of the 2012 presidential cycle, which will formally get under way in Iowa on February 6, 2012 (if not earlier due to scheduling changes). Interestingly enough, one of Iowa’s better-known political writers, former state GOP political director Craig Robinson, at his The Iowa Republican site, has already gone to the trouble of ranking ten likely candidates in term of their current strength in his state. He refuses to rank Mike Huckabee and Sarah Palin on the questionable ground that their refusal to appear at this week’s CPAC conference in Washington indicates they are not planning to run for president. We’ll see about that!
But the candidates Robinson does rank do not necessarily come out in the order you might expect. He has Newt Gingrich topping the list, thanks to his many, many years of speaking in Iowa and his grasp of the full range of issues. His second-place candidate is none other than Michelle Bachmann, thanks to her friendship with Iowa congressman Steve King, her close ties to the religious right, and her fundraising prowess.
Robinson has this to say about Tim Pawlenty, who has probably done the most to create a campaign infrastructure in Iowa:
Some believe that Pawlenty is Mitt Romney without the flip-flops and the albatross known as Romneycare. Pawlenty’s problem is that he’s probably going to be a lot of people’s second choice. For that to benefit him, he needs to see some big-name candidates drop out because, obviously, if people’s first choice is still on the ballot, that’s who they will be voting for.
He ranks Mitt Romney fourth on grounds that his frequent hints of less than full commitment to participation in the Iowa Caucuses will make it very difficult for him to attract and keep local support. That’s no problem for fifth ranking Rick Santorum, who is already spending lots of time in Iowa, and is well positioned to attract hard-core social conservative support if Huckabee and Palin don’t run.
Interestingly, Robinson ranks national pundit heartthrobs Haley Barbour, Mitch Daniels and John Thune seventh, eighth and ninth, respectively, ahead only of talk-show host Herman Cain.
I have no idea if Craig Robinson’s take is accurate, and he may have his own axes to grind. But to tell the truth, I’d trust his opinion on Iowa more than that of DC speculators who haven’t had shoes ruined by the muck of the Iowa State Fair.