Larry Sabato, the Sage of Charlottesville (ok, I just made that one up) is one of the go-to guys for political prognostication. Posted at his Crystal Ball is a quick summary of 19 potential Republican nominees.

Isn’t it a bit early to be talking about the 2012 election? Hardly; those of us who feature “R” after our names can’t hardly wait that long.

As for the Republican field, 19 possibilities? Yikes; how’s a disgruntled conservative going to choose? Mr Sabato lays out some very simple yet logical criteria:

Voters try to pick a candidate (1) who can win in November; (2) with whom they agree on issues; and (3) whom they like.

All the fightin’ and fussin’ comes about arguing over which of these simple criteria is most important. If we can’t have all three, that is.

I’m reminded of William F. Buckley’s single criterion: nominate the most conservative candidate who can win. Sometimes this means a Mike Castle in Delaware instead of the more conservative Christine O’Donnell (thanks, Delaware Republicans; your purity cost us a virtual lock on a Senate seat). It’s always better to have someone who votes your way 60-70% of the time as opposed someone who votes against you 90-100% of the time.

What I especially appreciate about Larry Sabato is that he seems to keep his own political preferences out of the mix. Now I’ll make a bold prediction: if the economy remains sluggish, with unemployment hovering close to nine percent, it will be Mitt Romney. If the economy has recovered, and unemployment is back under 7 percent, all bets are off, and we’ll need someone who can fire up the base until it’s red hot. We may lose, but we’ll lose with style and panache.

Hey, how about Chris Christie and Marco Rubio on the ticket? Either order would be acceptable…


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