Former Republican Governor of Massachusetts Mitt Romney announced Monday serious interest in running for President, again. With the 2012 Presidential election just around the corner, Romney and Tim Pawlenty — former Governor of Minnesota — are the only two potential GOP contenders to form a presidential exploratory committee to run against President Barack Obama, who officially announced his re-election bid last week.
There are a number of other potential candidates out there testing the waters, including CEO and self-proclaimed deal-maker Donald Trump, but no obvious front runner says Grover Norquist, president of Americans for Tax Reform and a potential kingmaker in the Republican Party.
In addition to Romney and Pawlenty, others on Norquist's radar include:
- Sarah Palin — Former Governor of Alaska and McCain's 2008 VP running mate
- Mike Huckabee — Former Governor of Arkansas who, like Romney, ran for President in 2008
- Haley Barbour — Governor of Mississippi
- Jon Huntsman — Former Governor of Utah
However, there is one person in particular that stands out in this lineup of potential candidates — if he chooses to run: New Jersey Governor Chris Christie.
"If Chris Christie announced he really wanted to do it, I think he'd be one of the top-tiered candidates in 25 minutes," Norquist tells Aaron and Dan in the accompanying clip. "He is a successful governor. He is the one who brought the message that you can confront the teacher's union bosses without having the voters confused that you don't like teachers or that you don't like education because you are arguing with the union bosses"
There are two reasons in particular why the GOP has many potential candidates, but few who've made the commitment, according to Norquist. First, Republicans "sense that Obama is vulnerable," which is not always the case for incumbent Presidents. Second is what he calls the "Mel Brooks Producers scenario," where potential candidates run with the intention to not necessarily go all the way.
"You can be politically successful, financially successful by failing in a bid for the presidency," Norquist says, comparing the phenomenon to Bialystock and Bloom's realization in The Producers that, "if you have an unsuccessful play you could make more money because you didn't have the costs…than if you had a moderately successful play."
Why is this so? Because, after the 15 minutes of fame in the political limelight, people are apt to buy your books and pay you huge sums of money to speak at events and organizations.
Sarah Palin, for example, has garnered national attention after running with McCain in 2008. Two years later, she wielded a lot of power in the mid-term elections by endorsing people and encouraging people to contribute or vote, says Norquist. "I would argue Sarah Palin has more power and has made more money as the failed vice presidential candidate than [Joe] Biden did" as the successful one.
This "Producers" phenomenon instantly brings to mind Donald Trump, who is currently playing the presidential field. Many believe his so-called interest is just a publicity stunt. But not Norquist, he thinks Trump is a serious candidate and not a complete long shot. (See: Donald Trump Now The No. 2 Republican Candidate for President)