Sabato: Don't Rule Out Late GOP Candidate, Such as Bush, Christie

Wednesday, 21 Dec 2011 12:01 PM

By Jim Meyers and Kathleen Walter

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University of Virginia political guru Larry Sabato tells Newsmax that he won’t rule out the possibility of a late entry into the Republican presidential race by several potential candidates, including former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush and New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie.

He also predicts that one or more third-party candidates will enter the race and have an effect on the outcome.

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Sabato is a political science professor, author, and director of the Center for Politics at the University of Virginia. He is also the founder of Sabato’s Crystal Ball, an online newsletter providing free political analysis.

In an exclusive interview with Newsmax.TV, Sabato was asked about the likelihood that other Republican candidates will emerge to join those already in the race for the presidential nomination.

“There’s a period after the January primaries when we have nothing for almost a month,” Sabato said.

“You have some minor caucuses right at the beginning of February, but you don’t have anything else significant until the very last day of February, the Arizona and Michigan primaries.

“So I’m calling that month the February freeze because it’s going to freeze the campaigns, at least on the surface. Below the surface you’re going to have the campaigns maneuvering, a lot of money being raised, and it’s possible, not probable but possible, that some other candidate will come into this, maybe one of the candidates who said no originally.”

As to who those late entries could be, Sabato says: “Chris Christie could only come into it if his endorsee, Mitt Romney, decided to drop out, and Romney would only drop out if he had lost everything in January — Iowa, New Hampshire, South Carolina, and Florida.

“But stranger things have happened. This has been a wacky nominating process. There’s no reason to think it’s going to get any less wacky.”

Turning to Jeb Bush, who repeatedly has rejected overtures to run for president in 2012, Sabato told Newsmax: “I think he is one of those major candidates who, if he woke up one morning and changed his mind, could potentially jump in in February.

“We’ve mentioned Chris Christie. We’ve mentioned Jeb Bush. You could throw in Mitch Daniels if he changed his mind, the governor of Indiana. You could throw in [Mississippi Gov.] Haley Barbour if he wanted to give it another try. Heck, I even think Congressman Paul Ryan would have a lot of support if he decided to run. They’ve all said no, but no is not forever.”

Asked about Ron Paul as a possible independent candidate, Sabato responded: “Ron Paul has said contradictory things about running as a third-party candidate or an independent. He doesn’t rule it out, and I wouldn’t rule it out either no matter what he’s said.

“I think we are going to have one or more independent third-party candidates that have some effect on the outcome. If you look at American history, in years like the one coming up when people are unhappy, in this case about the economy, when the electorate’s in surly mood, you will frequently have at least one third-party candidate if not more than one.”

Sabato also told Newsmax during the exclusive interview:
  • Negative attacks have taken a “tremendous toll” on Newt Gingrich in Iowa, where the race has been a “roller coaster” with six different front-runners. To win the nomination, Gingrich must do “credibly” in Iowa, New Hampshire, South Carolina, and Florida.
  • If Mitt Romney is to win the nod, he has to be the “remainder” candidate. “He’s going to be the one, if he’s chosen, that Republicans decide to pick because they’ve eliminated most of the other major candidates for one reason or another and they think, as does most of the Republican leadership, that Romney is more likely to win in November than the other candidates.”
  • Regardless of who wins the GOP nomination, if the U.S. economy remains bad, “any major credible Republican candidate who doesn’t have too much baggage can win the election. If the economy improves enough to give people hope that there will be a better second term for Obama, then it will be tough for any Republican to win.”
  • Scott Brown faces a “very tough” challenge in his quest for re-election to the Senate from Massachusetts, “although, if any Republican can win in Massachusetts, he’s proven he can. But boy, is Massachusetts Democratic. I call it a tossup.”
  • Overall, Republicans will pick up Senate seats. “Right now Democrats control 53 to 47. At the Crystal Ball we have it literately at the 50-50 mark. So the ticket that wins the vice presidency potentially could control the Senate.”

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