The major candidates
Mitt Romney: Serious guy. Already vetted. Tons of private- and public-sector executive experience. If not for one thing, he’d be the prohibitive front-runner. Unfortunately, the one thing is a big thing: Massachusetts’s Romneycare. For an election in which the main issue is excessive government (see Axiom One), that’s a huge liability. Every sentient Republican has been trying to figure out how to explain it away. I’ve heard no reports of any success. Romney is Secretariat at Belmont, but ridden by Minnesota Fats. He goes out at 5-1.
Newt Gingrich: Smart guy. A fountain of ideas. No, a Vesuvius of ideas. Some brilliance, lots of lava. Architect of a historic Republican victory in 1994. Rocky speakership. Unfortunate personal baggage. 12-1.
Haley Barbour: Successful governor. Experienced Washington hand. Abundant charm. Baggage: Years of lobbying, unforced errors on civil rights, early neo-isolationist deviations. Rarely without a comeback, however. 7-1.
Tim Pawlenty: Formerly, unassuming, unprepossessing, solid two-term Minnesota governor. Currently, mouse that roars. Up-tempo style, middle-of-the-road conservative content. Apparently baggageless. Could be the last man standing. 5-1.