If the politicians vying for the White House were members of the active 2011 rosters, who would they be?

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During the last Republican presidential debate, Rick Santorum, standing at the far end of the stage and struggling for screen time, made a football analogy about the candidates' spatial arrangement. "The wide receivers here on the ends here have seven children each," he observed, speaking of his own family and the children of former Utah governor Jon Huntsman, and who was placed at the far opposite end of the podium line-up from the former Pennsylvania senator.

Which got me thinking: What if the presidential candidates were NFL players?

Santorum's analogy made sense given the number of candidates on stage -- enough for the eight players who typically abut the line of scrimmage, in a two-running-back set -- and it worked as a loose metaphor for the candidates' personalities and politics.

In Santorum's offensive scheme, we would have:

Wide Receiver (WR) - former Sen. Rick Santorum (Pa): A longshot candidate, he catches social questions in stride, carries them into the end zone, and tosses them earnestly back to the ref.

Tight End (TE) - former House speaker Newt Gingrich (Ga.): Utilizes an aggressive, physical game. Tries to score touchdowns but also throws vicious crackback blocks on unsuspecting debate moderators (see: Wallace, Chris and Harris, John). These blocks are illegal if Gingrich moves upfield while making them. Moderators can't see him coming, and, all of a sudden, Gingrich is ramming his helmet into their earholes.

Right Tackle (RT) - Rep. Michele Bachmann (Minn.): Don't rush Bachmann with a weak first step, because she will throw undersized defensive ends to the ground and stomp on them.

Right Guard (RG) - former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney: He plods ahead, dutifully shoving the defense while keeping his weight low, trying not to make waves that will nix his chances in the general election. Balance is key.

Center (C) - Texas Gov. Rick Perry: The center of attention. He swaggers up to the line and points with virile gusto to make the pass-protection calls. He would probably manage to look heterosexual even while squatting on another man's hands.

Left Guard (LG) - Rep. Ron Paul (Texas): A pulling guard, the most nimble and unpredictable of linemen. Imagine you are a defensive end or a Texas governor. A gaping hole opens; you're going to drop the running back for a three-yard loss! The nomination is yours. You neither expect nor see Paul as he gallops around the bend, whooping about the Federal Reserve, and -- pop! -- Paul is harping on foreign wars and blasting you for supporting Al Gore over Ronald Reagan in 1988. He yells "freedom!" and gallops off to throw a few downfield blocks, behind the play, just for the hell of it.

Left Tackle (LT) - businessman Herman Cain: Cain is not a politician. He is the rhetorical, off-the-cuff equivalent of a guy who can bench press 400 lbs. He has eaten a lot of pizza in his day. You're not completely sure what he's all about, but you're glad he's on your team.

Wide Receiver (WR) - former Utah governor Jon Huntsman: Thin and swift, he gets downfield quickly and creates separation, sprinting ahead on the topics of China, trade, and cyber-war. No one stays with him on these issues. Huntsman is the deep threat among the 2012 candidates, lining up just off the line of scrimmage to avoid physical press coverage on social issues. Sometimes he's wide open, streaking toward the goal line -- but wait, it's a running play to the weak side. Huntsman trots into the end zone alone. If only they would call his number.

. . .

But that setup is a bit limiting. These candidates are actual people, and, to understand them in football terms, we may as well compare them to actual players. Hence, a compendium of the 2012 candidates as active NFL players for the 2011 season:

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