It’s hard not to obsess over November’s elections, with GOP gubernatorial candidate Nikki Haley on the cover of Newsweek and Democratic senate candidate Alvin Greene’s dream of his own action figure already realized (thanks, RiverDogs).
Then again, GOP congressional candidate Tim Scott is all but assured a free pass to Washington, and we can count the number of competitive Statehouse races on one hand — maybe even one of those cartoon hands with fewer fingers.
For those who need something more stimulating than a lie detector test to obsess over, fear not: the 2012 campaigning has already begun.
It’s not unusual to hear from candidates this early. By summer 2006, Vice President Joe Biden was already stumping at Galivants Ferry, Rudy Giuliani was holding court at the Hibernian, and Mike Huckabee had brought the National Governors Association to Charleston Place.
Here’s a quick look at some 2012 players and what they’ve been up to:
• Sen. Jim DeMint: Let’s start with the real dark horse in this presidential election cycle. His candidacy is unlikely for two reasons: 1. There are more than enough socially conservative radicals already out on the trail. 2. DeMint, ironically, is hitting every state but South Carolina. That said, a DeMint campaign couldn’t count on many states, but South Carolina would be a sure thing. Recently: He looks poised for a big re-election victory in November.
• La. Gov. Bobby Jindal: The Gulf Coast oil rig disaster has kept Jindal busy this summer, but when the well is capped for good, he’s going to have a lot of time on his hands and a lot of national exposure to capitalize on. Unlike his GOP buddies, Jindal hasn’t bowed to the Obama administration or British Petroleum. After a stumbling introduction to the national stage in 2008, Jindal is poised to take full advantage of his second act. Recently: A well-timed $3,500 contribution to fellow Indian-American politico, Nikki Haley.
• Minn. Gov. Tim Pawlenty: Pawlenty has been running a steady marathon race to the 2012 nomination. He’s visiting early primary states like a relentless travel writer — if he doesn’t win the nomination, he’s got a promising career at Lonely Planet or as the new Travelocity gnome. Expect the former moderate in your neighborhood soon, surprising you with his latest Tea Party turn. Recently: How serious is Pawlenty about winning South Carolina? His “Freedom First” Political Action Committee launched a contest for supporters to pick their favorite 2010 candidate. Of the 13 Pawlenty-approved Republicans in the contest, six are from South Carolina.
• Newt Gingrich: Some candidates subtly suggest they might consider a presidential run, you know, if their supporters demand it. DeMint has said that he’s not photogenic enough for a presidential race. Well, Gingrich’s ugly mug has no qualms about stoking campaign rumors. The former Washington insider has been threatening a run for the White House for more than a decade, so it’s hard to take him seriously. But he’s been putting enough face time in early primary states to take him seriously. Recently: Gingrich was in Charleston this month for a fundraiser, touting endorsements for Scott and Haley. He made headlines for proclaiming that “Change has come to South Carolina.”
Other presidential hopefuls you’re sure to see on the trail: 2008’s supporting cast members Mitt Romney, Mike Huckabee, and Sarah Palin.
Candidates who don’t have a prayer: Indiana Rep. Mike Pence and former Sen. Rick Santorum (R-state that learns from its mistakes).
The last presidential election cycle offers some lessons. Candidates who never made it to the primary shortlist, like John Kerry and Mark Warner, were hopping around the Lowcounty in 2006. And President Barack Obama wasn’t even on anyone’s radar.