Who Will be the Great Dark Horse Candidate of 2012?
Reading Mollie's earlier post lamenting the very thought of a world where Mike Huckabee could be president, I found myself thinking about how far the former Governor of Arkansas has come in four years.
When he declared his presidential aspirations in the 2008 cycle, Huckabee was dismissed by elites for his background behind a Southern Baptist pulpit and was almost completely unknown by the wider electorate. But he made a name for himself through charisma, a sense of humor, and raw likability and ended up winning the Iowa Caucuses and a string of presidential contests through the Midwest and the South. That he did so with a minimal staff and a shoestring budget is impressive -- and that he's one of the potential 2012 candidates who draws the most interest, doubly so.
Of course, Huckabee is not the first instance of this phenomenon. Most recently, we saw a similar arc with Howard Dean in the 2004 Democratic field. Given the weak offerings that the 2012 Republican field has thus far yielded -- and the internal conflict between Tea Partiers and the GOP establishment -- this will probably be another cycle with at least one break-out dark horse candidate.
My guess is that this year's crown will go to Michele Bachmann, who fires up conservative crowds with a regularity that totally befuddles the Beltway. Second choice -- and one who will really be coming out of nowhere -- is Herman Cain, the former Kansas City Fed Chairman, Godfather's Pizza CEO, and radio personality who has natural gifts on the stump that most professional pols would kill for. He won't have much of a campaign infrastructure, but put him on stage in a few debates and his performance may lead him to an ascendancy much like Huckabee's.
I don't envision the dark horse as the nominee -- they usually aren't -- but it will doubtlessly be someone who significantly changes the shape of the race. So who's the GOP diamond that you've spotted in the rough?