Boring 2012 GOP Field Has Activists Eyeing Christie, Thune, Huck

GOP strategists say it's not too late to get into 2012 race.

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The lackluster field of GOP presidential candidates, which polls show President Obama beating in next year's presidential election, has some Republicans itching to have Sen. John Thune, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, or Mike Huckabee back in the race.

"It's a weak field. Why wouldn't they rethink their decisions?" a senior GOP strategist said.

Already, several new candidates are mulling a bid because front runners Mitt Romney and Tim Pawlenty haven't caught fire among Republicans. They include former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani, South Carolina Sen. Jim DeMint, and former United Nations Ambassador John Bolton.

But it's the possibility that either Thune, Huckabee, or Christie would jump back into the race that has Republicans excited about a game-changing move that could alter the Iowa caucus and New Hampshire primary next year. [Vote now: Who is your pick for the 2012 GOP nomination?]

Christie sounds most unlikely to jump into the race, though he gets regular calls to reconsider. He has repeatedly suggested that he's not interested—at this time.

Huckabee pulled out but has hinted he's still interested in running, or at least interested in being a vice presidential pick.

Thune may be in the strongest position to make an impact, especially in Iowa. Weekly Standard editor Bill Kristol says in a new column that Thune's "getting encouragement to reconsider from some of his colleagues."

Thune is sitting on a $7.5 million campaign war chest and heralds from South Dakota, making him a favorite son in neighboring Iowa, where he has strong ties. Just two weeks ago, for example, he made a little noticed trip to Northwest Iowa to speak to the American Future Fund, a group largely composed of Sioux City area conservative political activists. There, he endorsed Rep. Paul Ryan's budget and pledged to demand spending cuts in return for raising the debt ceiling. He also visited areas hit by Missouri River flooding.

Republican political strategists say that he could be a major player in the Iowa Caucus, especially now that Mitt Romney has decided to make his stand in New Hampshire, which follows the Iowa Caucus. Some see Rep. Michele Bachmann winning the upcoming Ames Straw Poll and the Iowa Caucus, but feel Thune could take second, edging out Pawlenty, and putting him in a good position going into New Hampshire.

  • Vote now: Who is your pick for the 2012 GOP nomination?
  • See a slide show of who's running and who's not in the Republican primaries.
  • Enjoy political cartoons about the 2012 Republican field.