My own beginnings in the bloggernacle date to the 2008 election when I was interested in hearing more about Romney’s candidacy from the POV of other Mormons.  I started out reading and discussing posts at Mormon Mentality before I found Mormon Matters and got sucked in to that site’s discussion and then invited to blog there.  The rest, as they say, is history.  And here we are again four years later, as the GOP candidates are lining up for the 2012 election.  The more things change, the more they stay the same.

Many recent articles talk about the GOP candidates vying for the nomination, including 2 Mormon candidates, the one to beat (Romney), and the dark horse (Hunstman).  With Huckabee and Trump out of the picture, this only furthers the possibility of a Mormon in the White House in 2012, although it is certainly an uphill climb.  Would-be Trump voters may gravitate toward Palin and Romney (the next two with high face recognition – the wealthy but shallow toward handsome elitist Romney, the poor but shallow toward pretty populist Palin).  Huckabee’s exit benefits both Mormon candidates as he would have otherwise whipped up anti-Mormon sentiment among the Evangelical base; however, his would-be voters are more likely to attach to populist social conservative Pawlenty and tea partier Bachmann, or conversely Newt Gingrich (voters so conservative they are both sexist and cool with hypocrisy; all they require is a doughy white guy to vote for).

There have been several polls comparing the odds for the GOP hopefuls.  Here are some of my own picks, odds I’m giving them, and why:

  1. Romney.  3 to 1 odds.  “Front Runner.”
    • What would derail him?  Being Mormon still hurts him, and in a race with two Mormons, he is the most Mormon of the two (and of the “okley-dokely variety”). 
    • Who finds him appealing?  The wealthy, moderates, people who expect inauthenticity from politicians, people who want the president to “look presidential.” 
    • Who finds him UNappealing?  Populists, evangelicals, GOP hard liners, Republicans who credit him with being the father of Obamacare. 
    • Why he will get the nomination:  If no one more credible pulls ahead; he has a clean record (sorry, Newt), is smart (sorry, Palin), handsome (sorry, Santorum), and not crazy (sorry, Ron Paul). 
    • How he could win the general election:  If the economy is the key issue, he can beat Obama.  Incumbents lose when the economy is bad.
  2. Palin.  7 to 1 odds Caribou Barbie  
    • What would derail her?  Another Katie Couric interview.  Or maybe Oprah.  
    • Who finds her appealing?  Gun afficionados, NASCAR voters, men and people with IQs lower than 120. 
    • Who finds her UNappealing?  People with IQs over 120, moderates, scientists. 
    • Why she could get the nomination:  Very strong name and face recognition, and a female president is long overdue. 
    • How she could win the general election:  Probably can’t.  Maybe as a running mate if she didn’t get blinkered so easily, but she would probably be a liability in today’s 24×7 unedited news world.
  3. Mitch Daniels8 to 1 odds.  “The Serious Guy
    • What would derail him?  Not garnering enough support by waiting too long to jump in. 
    • Who finds him appealing?  Washington insiders who want a strong conservative candidate. 
    • Who finds him UNappealing?  Moderates, people who hate career politicians. 
    • Why he could get the nomination:  A good track record, and could pull ahead if no one stronger emerges
    • How he could win the general election:  On conservative chops if Obama loses support due to a poor economy.
  4. Bachmann.  10 to 1 odds.  “The Tea Partier”  
    • What would derail her?  Not being strong enough on economy or foreign policy in the debate rounds.
    • Who finds her appealing?  Tea partiers fed up with the current administration, people who don’t want a flip-flopper, voters who want a strong female candidate. 
    • Who finds her UNappealing?  Moderates. 
    • Why she could get the nomination:  Has a strong base, and is competing against more moderate candidates; to beat a diverse candidate, be a diverse candidate (a woman). 
    • How she could win the general election:  On a wave of tea party support if the economy is bad.  However, she could also be a strong vice-presidential candidate to round out a more moderate, less female candidate.
  5. Gingrich10 to 1 oddsAdulterous Speaker of the House”  
    • What would derail him?  His past.  Obviously. 
    • Who finds him appealing?  No, really.  I’m asking. 
    • Who finds him UNappealing?  Anti-adultery social conservatives, shallow people who want a good looking president. 
    • Why he could get the nomination:  He has name recognition, and he entered the race early. 
    • How he could win the general election:  He could beat Biden if that scenario ever happened in some alternate universe.  Otherwise, he’s a liability despite his name recognition.
  6. Pawlenty.  15 to 1 odds.  “The Populist”  
    • What would derail him?  Continuing to fail to garner enough support. 
    • Who finds him appealing?  Staunch social conservatives, former Huckabee supporters. 
    • Who finds him UNappealing?  Moderates, elitists. 
    • Why he could get the nomination:  He has credibility and support among the 1/3 of GOP voters who are Evangelical social conservatives. 
    • How he could win the general election:  By pandering to the poor if the economy is bad.
  7. Huntsman15 to 1 odds.  The Other Handsome, Rich Mormon Guy 
    • What would derail him?  Having served in the Obama administration.  Being too unknown. 
    • Who finds him appealing?  Foreign policy wonks, business people who understand the current importance of Asia. 
    • Who finds him UNappealing?  Staunch conservatives, Evangelicals (although he will fare better than Romney on this front). 
    • Why he could get the nomination:  He’s entering late with no personal baggage and strong principles – he could easily pull ahead as a replacement for Romney if Romney fails to connect. 
    • How he could win the general election:  On the economy if that issue becomes a front-running issue, if he had a strong enough running mate.
  8. Herman Cain30 to 1 odds“The Black Republican” 
    • What would derail him?  Insufficient support. 
    • Who finds him appealing?  People who want  a black president who debates well that isn’t a Democrat. 
    • Who finds him UNappealing?  Most just don’t know him. 
    • Why he could get the nomination:  He’s wealthy, so he can compete, and a race between two black candidates would be a way to neutralize one of Obama’s advantages; however, this would have been a better card to play in 2008 when Obama wasn’t the incumbent. 
    • How he could win the general election:  He’s too unknown; he probably only wins as a veep at this point, but he would be an asset as a Vice Presidential candidate.

So those are my picks.  I omitted some you might like better, and of course, any of these candidates could choose to walk away, or Huckabee could have a chat with God and change his mind.  It’s still early days.  In any case, it is certainly more likely than it was in 2008 that either the Republican Presidential nominee or the VP nominee will be a Mormon.  Five reasons that’s good press for Mormons:

  1. Mormons are becoming more mainstream.
  2. Two different “brands” of Mormonism are being presented here.  Huntsman downplays his Mormon faith (not rising to the challenge when told he sounds as if he’s not Mormon any more), and his daughter is marrying outside the faith.  He also refers to his ancestors being saloon keepers (which seems like an obscure pander to the Utah-centric issue of liquor licenses that no one outside the state has ever heard of).  Romney comes across as a more “golly gee willakers” brand of Mormonism as often portrayed in sit-coms.
  3. 100% of Mormon candidates are good looking and well-dressed, with good hair and tan skin.  They also have hot wives (only one each, though).
  4. Mormons may be religious, but are also financially successful business people.
  5. Even filthy-rich Mormons are down-to-earth (Romney enjoys ice-blocking on a golf course while Huntsman likes to eat in divey restaurants and back alleys in China).
  6. Mormons are faithful to their spouses, even when they become rich and powerful.  They avoid the most common hypocrisy among politicians.
  7. Mormons like to be well-travelled and cultured.  Both candidates have talked a lot about living in multiple places, although neither can really compete with Obama on this front.

On the downside, one could conclude:

  1. Mormons are all related, in part thanks to polygamy (as are both these candidates, distantly).
  2. Mormons all seem to have strong ties to an obscure state that most Americans have never been to and many couldn’t accurately place on the map.

So, readers, here are some questions for you:

  • What do you think the odds are that the Republican nominee (or VP) will be a Mormon in 2012?
  • What will that scrutiny and publicity mean for Mormons as a group?
  • Do you think the candidates will successfully bypass religion with Huckabee out of the race?