One of the things that's been most striking about this election cycle so far is the Republicans who've risen from obscurity to win their party's nominations for a whole host of Senate and Gubernatorial races. When we polled South Carolina, Nevada, and Maine around the start of the year we didn't even bother including Nikki Haley, Sharron Angle, and Paul LePage in our general election match up polling because they seemed like second tier contenders yet it appears they will all win their party nominations. And they're not the only surprising GOP winners of the cycle- you can certainly put Rand Paul and Marco Rubio on that list, and it's looking more and more like Ken Buck will join that club once the Colorado primary comes around.
When I look at how many little known Republicans are rising quickly to the top and when I look at how tightly jumbled our polling on the 2012 GOP Presidential field is right now, it really makes me think there's a very good chance- better than even- that the party will end up nominating someone for President in 2012 outside the current top quartet of Sarah Palin, Mike Huckabee, Mitt Romney, and Newt Gingrich. Those folks are all very well known to Republican voters and the fact that none of them really stands out in polling on the race leaves a lot of room for someone less prominent on the national level right now to catch fire and win the nomination in 2012.
I don't know who that person would be at this point but if I had to put my money on it I'd say Bobby Jindal if he got in the race. He has a very strong competence argument in the wake of the oil spill, can present himself as the sort of new face the GOP needs to move the party's base of support beyond white conservatives, and doesn't have any of the national baggage the more well known candidates do. And it's silly to think that his not ready for primetime debut on the national stage with the State of the Union response last year will really hurt him in the long term- just look at Bill Clinton's 1988 convention speech 4 years before he waltzed into the White House.
If I was one of the current Republican front runners what's happening in the primaries across the country so far this year would make me a little antsy about whether that status was worth much.