The 2012 Republican primary campaign has gotten off to a late and not-great start. Tim Pawlenty, Newt Gingrich, Mitt Romney, and Jon Huntsman make up pundits' top tier, though not necessarily voters'. Pundits like Fred Malek say the GOP field is set, but many Republicans can't help but fantasizing that there's a better candidate out there, somewhere, a dude who'll sweep conservatives off their feet but also charm the independents into letting them stay out past curfew, maybe overhaul a few entitlements. Some had hoped Mitch Daniels would be that boy, but he opted out last weekend. Fantasy is always more appealing than reality. With the current crop wannabes failing to live up to the hopes of Republican supporters who want to unseat Obama, there's always the couldabes: the remaining GOP crushes that maybe, just maybe jump into the race. Chris Christie, Jeb Bush, Rudy Giuliani, Marco Rubio, and Paul Ryan: will any of them ask us out?
Recent Backer: Keith Koffler, writing in Tuesday's Politico
Why He's So Great: He was a popular two-term governor of a crucial swing state, he could help win back the Latino vote because he speaks Spanish and is married to a Latina, he appeals to religious voters because he was born Protestant but converted to Catholicism, he's southern but doesn't scare Yankees.
Significant Flaw Brushed Aside by Backer: He's George W. Bush's brother.
Potential Candidate: Former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani
Recent Backer: Rep. Peter King, a friend of 40 years, to Byron York in the Washington Examiner Tuesday.
Why He's So Great: Rudy was America's mayor! He's tough-talking but charming, oversaw big reductions in crime, and has major name-recognition.
Significant Flaw Brushed Aside by Backer: He's a thrice-married New Yorker who likes to cross-dress for laughs (with Donald Trump, no less) and spent millions on the 2008 primary but failed to win a single contest.
Potential Candidate: Wisconsin Rep. Paul Ryan
Recent Backer: House Majority Leader Eric Cantor, at a Capitol Hill press conference Tuesday.
Why He's So Great: Ryan authored the House GOP's 2012 budget, which contains a plan to completely overhaul Medicare for the sake of the country's fiscal health. "They want to see Washington that will lead," Cantor said of nervous voters. "They don't want to see individuals dismiss the current problems as something that we can sweep under the rug."
Significant Flaw Brushed Aside by Backer: Ryan's Medicare plan is so unpopular a Democrat may win Tuesday's special election in New York's 26th district, which is conservative and typically would be an easy win for the GOP.
Potential Candidate: New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie
Recent Backer: Fox News chief Roger Ailes, in a phone call to Christie a few months ago.
Why He's So Great: Christie has been a forceful advocate for conservative principles, shouting down voters he found disrespectful. He took on teachers' unions, calling them "political thugs."
Significant Flaw Brushed Aside by Backer: He's a Republican from a blue state--that means he's not conservative enough for most Republican primary voters. Example: He says he believes in collective bargaining. Plus, he says he's not ready.
Recent Backer: Rush Limbaugh, on his radio show in March.
Why He's So Great: Rubio beat moderate establishment pick--and sitting governor--Charlie Crist in the Republican primary before easily winning the general election for his Senate seat. Like Bush, Rubio could help the GOP with Latino voters--his parents immigrated from Cuba in 1959. Conservatives liked it when he expressed outrage at the stopgap measures Congress passed twice before finally approving a 2011 budget in April. Bonus: He's kind of dreamy.
Significant Flaw Brushed Aside by Backer: Rubio was elected to the Senate less than a year ago.