Friday night topic: Handicapping 2012

Like it or not, the next U.S. presidential race is upon us. That means the candidates in the party out of power—the GOP, in this case—are lining up to seek their party's nomination to face the incumbent, President Obama, in the general election.

The thing is, the Republican primary race looks wide open at this point, with a huge field of potentials and no strong frontrunner, as far as I can tell. Political discussions can get a bit messy, so I'm going to ask you all to answer several specific questions in order to keep things on track. They are:

1. Who will win the GOP nomination and why? Not looking for your favorite here, but the candidate you think will be the eventual victor.

2. Who should win the GOP nomination? Who do you prefer as the nominee among the apparent choices, and why?

3. Who will win the general election, the GOP nominee or Obama? Why?

Try to keep things civil and related to actually handicapping the race or explaining your preferences in positive terms, please. Folks who just want to scream their violent hatred toward Sarah Palin or whatever are welcome to refrain from participation.

Honestly, I can't say I know how to answer question #1. My sense is that Mitt Romney, for all his problems (health care record, charisma, etc.), is probably the most likely nominee thanks to a strong organization and the sense that, well, it's his turn. The GOP tends to nominate the next guy in line, the guy who has the support of the local party establishments, and Romney seems to be that guy more than anyone else. I think.

What are your picks and why? Discuss. Oh, and we may revisit these predictions after the fact, to see who called it best.

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