Barbour moves to #3 in WaPo 2012 predictions

The tectonic plates of Republican politics are shifting steadily these days.

Utah Gov. Jon Huntsman Jr., the leading moderate voice within the GOP, took himself out of the mix when he agreed to become ambassador to China in the Obama Administration.

Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty, meanwhile, put himself into the national conversation with his announcement earlier this week that he would not seek a third term as governor and left the door to a potential presidential bid in 2012 wide open.

Dropping off the Line: Jon Huntsman, Mark Sanford, Jeb Bush, Eric Cantor
Coming onto the Line: Mitch McConnell, Dick Cheney, Bob McDonnell, Tim Pawlenty, Mike Huckabee.

3. Haley Barbour: Barbour’s back to back trips to New Hampshire and Iowa later this month eliminate the idea that he isn’t considering a presidential bid in 2012. That said, the betting is that Barbour, as sharp a strategist as the party has, will grasp that running as a former lobbyist against a president elected on a platform of reform is a non-starter. If Barbour ultimately reaches that decision, he will be a potent force for good within the party as chairman of the Republican Governors Association in 2010. With redistricting coming up in 2011, increasing the number of GOP-controlled governor’s mansion is a huge priority for the party, a priority that Barbour will oversee. (Previous ranking: 4)