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Presidential Derby

March 15, 2011 - 7:00pm

A new poll from Public Policy Polling (PPP), an organization that has connections to some prominent Democrats, offers a bit of insight into who conservatives will back for the Republican presidential nomination if former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin and former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee do not enter the race. When those two candidates -- with their combined 34 percent in the poll -- are taken out of the mix, former U.S. House Speaker Newt Gingrich goes from fourth place with 14 percent to tie with former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney at the top of the poll at 24 percent. Gingrich is not the only conservative who benefits with Huckabee and Palin out of the equation. Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour jumps from 1 percent to 5 percent. Former U.S. Sen. Rick Santorum of Pennsylvania goes from an asterisk to tie with Barbour in fifth place with 5 percent. One candidate not helped by Palin and Huckabee staying out of the field is Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels who stays at 4 percent either way Even as his press secretary resigned after sending out e-mails with inappropriate jokes about the recent Japanese tsunami, Barbour is increasingly looking ready to launch a bid for the Republican presidential nomination. Barbour spent Monday and Tuesday in Iowa, home of the first presidential caucus. On Wednesday, Barbour looked to build his team up in New Hampshire which will host the first presidential primary, bringing in Mike Dennehy who helped John McCain to victory in the Granite State in both 2000 and 2008 ... Former Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty continues to swing through the South as he looks likely to enter the Republican primary field. Pawlenty headed to South Carolina on Wednesday to speak to a Republican organization in Aiken

A very prominent conservative with experience at running for the Republican presidential nomination thinks Huckabee should run. Conservative commentator Pat Buchanan, who ran three times for the Republican presidential nod, argued this week that Huckabee remains popular with the rank and file and should be able to repeat his Iowa victory from 2008 and win in South Carolina, which would set the stage for winning the nomination. Buchanan, who scared George H.W. Bush in New Hampshire in 1992 and beat Bob Dole and the field there in 1996, conceded that Huckabee may not play as well in the Granite State Santorum is starting to take off the gloves. The former senator from Pennsylvania has started to attack Romney for backing a state health-care model during his tenure in Massachusetts, much like the federal one backed by President Barack Obama While pundits generally gave low marks to Gingrich for the rollout of his presidential exploratory committee, former Gov. Buddy Roemer of Louisiana appears to have made the most of his opportunity. Roemer announced his exploratory committee on the same day as Gingrich and received favorable press notices in media outlets from CNN to the Wall Street Journal. A solid speech by Roemer out in Iowa to conservative activists earlier in March did not hurt, either. Roemer is still a dark horse, but it must be conceded that he started out of the gate pretty well

Speaking around the country, Jim Messina, who is the campaign manager for Obamas re-election efforts, is stressing that his team is expecting close contests in a number of crucial states, including Pennsylvania and Michigan. According to reports, Messina stressed what he saw as vulnerabilities toformer Utah Gov. Jon Huntsman who is looking at running for the Republican nomination. Messina also said he would not be surprised if tea party movement favorite U.S. Rep. Michele Bachmann of Minnesota pulled off a major upset to win the Iowa caucus In the meantime, the Obama fund-raising effort began in Washington on Wednesday. With the DNC advisory board meeting in Washington, Obama, White House Chief of Staff Bill Daley and Messina will be speaking to attendees. Messina will be reaching out to attendees with the same fund-raising presentation he has been making across the country Democratic presidential candidate Randall Terry, the pro-life activist best known for founding Operation Rescue, continued to protest in Washington against congressional Republicans. Terry is calling out Republicans who continue to keep the federal government afloat with ongoing budgetary resolutions -- which include federal funding of Planned Parenthood

Mike Bloomberg 2012? Not so fast. A new poll from Quinnipiac University shows that New Yorkers have grown increasingly unhappy with his performance as mayor of New York City. The poll found only 37 percent of those surveyed approved of Bloomberg, while 51 percent disapproved. There has been speculation that Bloomberg, an independent who left the Republican Party, would try for the White House in 2012 as an independent or third party candidate Former Texas Libertarian Party Chairman Roger Gary announced that he was planning to seek his partys presidential nomination. An activist and candidate for almost three and a half decades, Gary said in his announcement that he was willing to fight for his partys ideals and he was tired of leaders from other parties jumping over to the Libertarians and, once defeated, doing nothing to advance the party and its agenda. Gary is certainly a dark horse for the nomination, but he could follow the same path that led fellow Texan Michael Badnarik to victory.Helped by a very strong performance in a debate at the party convention, Badnarik came out of nowhere to win the Libertarian presidential nomination in 2004 ... Sharon Angle, the Republican candidate who almost defeated Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., in 2010, had left the door open for running for the Republican presidential nomination in 2012. She closed that door this week, with all signs showing that she will run for the congressional seat currently held by U.S. Rep. Dean Heller who is running for the U.S. Senate.

Reach Kevin Derby at or at (850) 727-0859.

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