Running for president in 2008, Barack Obama campaigned on change. But in the 2012 presidential elections, voters could be looking for a different kind of change. The Obama administration has scored several landmark achievements, the 2009 stimulus package, the healthcare overhaul, and financial reform bills for example. But the nation’s high unemployment and increasing federal debt may still have voters worried about the future. If so, Obama could face a tough reelection bid. With his approval ratings sinking to the low 40s, beltway buzz is already building for potential 2012 Republican candidates. Those mentioned include South Dakota Republican Sen. John Thune, who made headlines in 2004 by defeating incumbent and then-Senate Minority Leader Tom Daschle. Thune is up for reelection in 2010 but doesn’t have a challenger, though he has still raised over $11.5 million. Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich has already said he is considering a presidential run and will make a decision early in 2011.
There are also several sitting and former governors in the mix. Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty will leave the governor’s mansion when his term ends this year and could be eyeing the presidency. He was rumored to be on John McCain’s short list of running mates in 2008. Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal may also be eyeing the spot. He’s benefited from national name recognition due to his leadership during Hurricane Katrina and the BP oil spill, as has Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour. Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels appeals to many as a budget cutter uninterested in social issues. Former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney and former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee, who both ran for the Republican nomination in 2008, are expected to contend again in 2012. Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush is also mentioned regularly. And former Alaska governor turned Fox News pundit Sarah Palin can’t be ruled out as a potential 2012 contender. She’s become the darling of the Tea Party movement that has gained momentum this year. But with plenty of time until 2012, other presidential candidates still have some time to come out of the woodwork.