The Friday Line: Ranking Republican Leaders
As such, certain voices rise and others fall over the course of months.
Those stepping into the front row of the choir of late include Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin, Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty and former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney; voices that have have quieted in recent months include former Vice President Dick Cheney, radio talk show host Rush Limbaugh, Republican National Committee Chairman Michael Steele and Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal — although we hear a Jindal re-emergence is in the offing.
Our look at the 10 most influential Republicans at the moment is below. Remember that this is not a list of who is most likely to win the party’s nomination in 2012 and should not be taken as such. Rather, it’s an attempt to show the leading voices for a party in rebuilding mode.
Agree or disagree with our picks? The comments section awaits.
Coming Off the Line: Mike Huckabee, Bobby Jindal, Michael Steele, Dick Cheney
Coming On the Line: John Boehner, John Cornyn, Chris Christie
10. John Boehner: Boehner, the party’s minority leader in the House, has done something amazing in the first six months of the 111th Congress: kept his members unified. The unanimous “no” vote against President Barack Obama’s economic stimulus plan earlier this year and the defection of justeight Republicans on the cap and trade vote last month speak to Boehner’s ability to keep the conference in line. He also scored major points with the base of the party with his relentless attacks on House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (Calif.) over what she knew and when she knew it regarding the interrogation of terrorists by the C.I.A. (Previous ranking: N/A)
9. Mitch McConnell: The Kentucky Senator has retreated into the background somewhat in recent weeks but as the chief legislative strategist for Senate Republicans, McConnell will be at the center of the fights over health care and cap and trade this summer and fall. For those who doubt McConnell’s effectiveness, go back and look at how he drove the Gitmo debate from the floor of the Senate. (Previous ranking: 10)
8. John Cornyn: The chairman of the National Republican Senatorial Committee has had a good run of things lately. He successfully recruited credible candidates in Illinois and New Hampshire and has seen the NRSC’s decision to wade into contested primaries pay off in Missouri and Florida. Cornyn’s momentum was slowed somewhat by his uneven performance in the Sotomayor hearings — he couldn’t seem to decide whether or not to go after her or throttle it back — although he did set himself up to cast a “regrettable no” vote on her confirmation that will complicate Democrats’ efforts to paint him as anti-Latino. (Previous ranking: N/A)
7. Newt Gingrich: The former House Speaker drops a few slots on this month’s Line as several Republican strategists painted his fourth place showing in arecent Gallup poll looking at the 2012 field as decidedly disappointing given that Gingrich is working hard behind the scenes to build support. Still, the first vote in Iowa is still two and a half years away and Gingrich’s role as the “ideas” guy in the Republican party virtually ensures him a permanent spot on this Line. (Previous ranking: 2)
6. Tim Pawlenty: Pawlenty is on the rise in the Line as, although he hasn’t done much publicly yet, the Fix keeps hearing stories of the leg work (financial, staff etc) that Tpaw is doing behind the scenes. The collapse of Sen. John Ensign (Nev.) and Mark Sanford (S.C.) thins the 2012 field, which gives Pawlenty more room to run. Expect Pawlenty to emerge (and go higher on the Line) as summer turns to fall. (Previous ranking: 6)
5. Haley Barbour: Sanford’s implosion installed Barbour, the governor of Mississippi, as chairman of the Republican Governors Association about six months earlier than had been planned. That’s a good thing for the candidates in Virginia and New Jersey who will directly benefit from Barbour’s strategic know-how. Barbour would almost certainly be higher on the Line if he was not considering a run for president in 2012. He is more powerful as a kingmaker in a national race than as a candidate in his own right. (Previous ranking: 3)
4. Bob McDonnell: The party’s nominee in the Virginia governor’s race this fall has an even money (or slightly better) chance of taking the seat back for Republicans — a win that, if it comes to pass, will be painted as a national referendum on Obama’s presidency. (Previous ranking: 4)
3. Chris Christie: The more we look at this November’s New Jersey gubernatorial race, the more convinced we become that Christie, a former U.S. Attorney, is going to beat Gov. Jon Corzine (D). Now, campaigns matter and there is still plenty of time for Corzine to make up ground. But, he hasn’t yet and that puts Christie in the catbird’s seat. A Republican win in true-blue New Jersey would turn Christie into a national figure in much the same way that Christie Todd Whitman’s victory in the Garden State way back in 1993 established her as a player at the national level. Christie seems to sense the opportunity to be the moderate voice for the GOP; he came out in favor of Sonia Sotomayor’s confirmation this morning. (Previous ranking: N/A)
2. Sarah Palin: The Alaska governor has been ranked as high as number one on this Line and as low as number nine. That yo-yoing effect is a reflection of the Fix’s difficulty in wrapping our arms around what Palin means in the party, what she plans to do with her political future and how seriously she needs to be taken. On the one hand, herstunning July 3 resignation seemed impetuous and her resignation speech was the sort of stream of consciousness ramble that is not advisable for a politician at any level. On the other, the fact that she raised $733,000 for her Sarah PAC in the first six months of the year despite having no organization to speak of and with the dominant narrative around her during that time being the chaos of her personal and political life. We decided to put Palin so high on the Line for one reason: is there any other Republican you can think of who, if she runs for president, will be a favorite in two — Iowa and South Carolina — of the first four states to vote for president in the primaries? (Previous ranking: 9)
1. Mitt Romney: Romney, the former Massachusetts governor and a 2008 presidential candidate, is the most complete package on the Republican side of the aisle. His recent fundraising report — in whichhe collected $1.6 million over the first six months of 2009 and doled it out to states like New Hampshire and South Carolina — make clear he is running for president again (we never doubted it). And, Romney continues to do the sort of policy-centric things — op-eds, appearances on Sunday talk shows — to keep him on the leading edge of the issue debate in the party. (Previous ranking: 1)