As of right now, it seems like there are four general types of GOP presidential hopefuls.
The first is the handful that may inspire some fire in the bellies of a small segment of the electorate, but have no real chance of winning the nomination or the general election.
Sorry to the Paulies out there who just refuse to accept this about their beloved Doctor, but Ron Paul has no more of a chance of sitting behind the big desk at the White House than Herman Cain, Sarah Palin, Rick Santorum or Newt Gingrich, and there are just plain not enough libertarians out there for him to win the GOP nod. Herman Cain - gotta love him, but he appears to be this year's Mike Gravel or Alan Keyes: The guy that is fun to watch in the debates, but is more of a cartoon of a particular belief system than a candidate many people will seriously consider voting for.
The second is the handful that will inspire great passion among the electorate - but not always in ways that will help them.
These firebrands will likely get the far Right base all up in arms, but will scare away so many swing voters that it would take something like a murder charge against Obama for them to have a chance of winning. Think Sarah Palin and Sarah Bachmann, should they decide to jump in. There are pathways to the nomination for them, but barring something miraculous, they can't win.
The third is the more mainstream candidates like Tim Pawlenty, Mitt Romney and the recently departed Mitch Daniels.
All flawed in some way or another, none inspiring much passion among the party loyal or swing voters. They may have a long shot chance of pulling out a win against Obama: Should a series of unfortunate events go against the president, Pawlenty is still new enough he could maybe get within striking distance.
I’d only put one person in the last group—the ones that may well give Obama a run for his money.
Right now, Jon Huntsman is the only candidate that is likely to be within striking distance of Obama after the American people get a decent feel for the field—and Obama and the Democrats know it.
Huntsman's recent successes, building support in South Carolina and New Hampshire, have kept him in the spotlight as he puts together his campaign, and the media seems to like him as much as the people of Utah did when he was governor. It remains to be seen whether he can convince enough GOP primary voters to go with the somewhat moderate, more electable guy over one that inspires more passion in the base.
Overall, the consensus among pundits, as well as the evidence shown in polling numbers, is that Obama is the prohibitive favorite. The economy is expected to keep getting better, and out problems overseas have been trending more positive. Like it or not, barring some game changers, Obama is the odds-on favorite for another four years.
One wonders if Huckabee and Chris Christie chose to wait this cycle out because they think they’ll have an easier ride in 2016. Right now that looks to be the smart move.
Solomon Kleinsmith is a nonprofit worker, serial social entrepreneur and strident centrist independent blogger from Omaha, Nebraska. His website, Rise of the Center, is the fastest growing blog targeting centrist independents and moderates. He is currently collaborating with other centrist independent and moderate bloggers on a news aggregation and social networking site, and is always looking for ways to help the independent groundswell as more and more people become disaffected with the two major parties.