GOP Class Of 2012 Candidates Takes Shape

Originally published on May 16, 2011 12:09 pm
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LIANE HANSEN, Host:

Speaking on his Fox News program, former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee ended speculation last night on whether he would enter the race for the Republican presidential nomination.

M: My answer is clear and firm: I will not seek the Republican nomination for president this year. I'm going to gladly continue doing what I do, and hopefully helping others in their campaigns for Congress, governorships and other positions.

HANSEN: NPR's national political correspondent Mara Liasson is here, thank goodness. Mara, good morning.

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

MARA LIASSON: And good morning, Liane.

HANSEN: All right, here we are. Mike Huckabee is out. What does it means for the Republican field?

LIASSON: People like Tim Pawlenty, Rick Santorum, Michele Bachmann are going to try to fill that space with evangelical voters. But we don't know whether they can.

HANSEN: And, of course, Newt Gingrich and Ron Paul are both well-known names in the Republican Party. But is the party really looking, do you think, for a fresh face?

LIASSON: Newt Gingrich is an intellectual force in the party. He has the ability to set the terms of the debate, although there are questions about whether he has the discipline for this kind of campaign. And there're questions about whether his personal life and his three marriages will hurt him in his bid. But he certainly is an idea machine and I think that's the role he will play.

HANSEN: That leaves the potentials: Indiana Governor Mitch Daniels, he's quite coy about his ambitions. How do his tea leaves look today?

LIASSON: So he's someone who I think would immediately vault to the top tier of candidates if he decided to run. We just don't know yet what he's going to do.

HANSEN: What about Mitt Romney's health care system that he established while he was governor of Massachusetts, and the federal overhaul of health care that President Obama supported? Is Mitt Romney trying to create some space there?

LIASSON: So he gave a speech where he defended the Massachusetts healthcare plan, but said he would never impose it on other states. And promised - as every Republican candidate will do - to repeal the Obama plan as soon as he is elected president.

HANSEN: NPR's national political correspondent Mara Liasson. Mara, thank you so much.

LIASSON: Thank you, Liane. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.