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The GOP's 2012 hopefuls: A post-election buzz roundup
With the midterms in the rear-view mirror, Republicans are beginning to focus on winning the White House. How are pundits gaming the field?
In a hypothetical 2012 matchup, former Arkansas governor Mike Huckabee leads Obama 52 -- 44 percent.
In a hypothetical 2012 matchup, former Arkansas governor Mike Huckabee leads Obama 52 -- 44 percent.
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resh off Tuesday's landslide, the newly "revitalized Republican Party" is beginning to look toward the next presidential election. Here's a roundup of the post-election buzz on five of the party's most notable prospects:

Mike Huckabee: The former Arkansas governor tops the latest CNN poll, with 21 percent of Republicans saying he is their favorite to win the party's 2012 presidential nomination. He is strong in Iowa, a key early-primary state, and leads Obama by eight percentage points in a hypothetical 2012 matchup. Huckabee's "aw shucks" oratory has the broad appeal he'll need, says David Brody at CBN. It makes him "the closest thing to Reagan that the GOP has." Please, says Rob Port at Say Anything Blog, "Huckabee is a big-government Republican nanny statist" — he doesn't stand a chance "in a primary environment dominated by Tea Party voters and Sarah Palin." 

Mitt Romney: The former Massachusetts governor has the support of 20 percent of Republicans, and he also beats Obama in the CNN poll, by 5 points. During the midterm campaign, Romney laid important ground work by helping candidates who were part of the GOP surge. "My gut tells me that Romney is the frontrunner," says James Joyner at Outside the Beltway, although at this point polls are mostly name-recognition contests with "little bearing" on what happens in 2012. Conservatives don't trust Romney because of the similarities between RomneyCare and Obamacare, says Michael Kranish in The Boston Globe, and with all the "antiestablishment" Tea Partiers out there, his mainstream cred may mean he's toast.

Sarah Palin: The former GOP vice presidential candidate trails Obama in head-to-head polling. She remains wildly popular with a segment of the GOP base, but has powerful opposition within the party — even former president George W. Bush reportedly thinks she isn't qualified to be president. Palin may well be more popular with "grassroots conservatives" than the other hopefuls, says Simon Mann at Australia's The Age, but the rest of the country hates her. Nominating her would be a disaster for Republicans. Maybe for establishment Republicans, says Whitney Pitcher at Conservatives4Palin. But for true conservatives who believe in "fiscal responsibility, a strong national defense, and the sanctity of life," Palin is the candidate we've been waiting for.

Newt Gingrich: The former House speaker runs strong against Obama. Like Palin, and unlike the traditional establishment types, Gingrich has "Tea Party cred," says Evan McMorris-Santoro at Talking Points Memo. "Romney's straight-out-of-central-casting presidential image" would play better in a general election, but in today's election environment it's "extreme positions" on such things as immigration and the "Ground Zero mosque" that win Republican nominations. Regardless, says Rob Port at Say Anything Blog, Gingrich is a non-starter — he's not a contender, he's "a tired old retread more interested in selling books."

Marco Rubio: The Tea Party favorite just elected in Florida hasn't spent a day in the Senate yet — but by Election Day in 2012 he will have served as long as President Obama had when he ran. Rubio is an instant GOP "superstar," says Jennifer Rubin at Commentary. "He is the personification of the Tea Party candidate — an outsider and a conservative." Rubio has "a huge fan base and boatloads of charisma," says James Joyner at Outside the Beltway. "But I suspect he'll wait a little longer."

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