Is anyone excited about who will win in 2012?

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Which is why we're reading and seeing more stories in the political press that if Mitt Romney loses Michigan next week, there will be a serious call for one of the GOP fantasy candidates to declare his or her candidacy. In order of popularity, I'd say the favorites would be Jeb Bush, Paul Ryan, Mitch Daniels, Chris Christie and Palin.

On Fox News Sunday, host Chris Wallace argued with Karl Rove about the possibility of another unnamed Republican entering the race. Former Howard Dean campaign manager Joe Trippi, Wall Street Journal columnist Kimberly Strassel and New York Daily News columnist Kristen Powers also joined in on the fun.

WALLACE: — you and I — I'm going to entertain this again. You and I discussed many times the possibility of a late entry in this race and you have always flatly dismissed me, but now reportedly, some other — and you will know if it is true or not — top Republicans are talking about this possibility. And they know. And let's put this on the screen.

The filing deadline has not passed for these states: California, New Jersey, Montana, New Mexico, South Dakota, and the argument is if — and I've got to repeat — if Romney were to lose Michigan he's mortally wounded.

The other candidates can't beat Obama so the establishment brings in somebody like, for instance, Jeb Bush, he can't win the nomination but he gets enough delegates to throw it to a contested convention. Tell me I am crazy again.

ROVE: Yes, look, this proves mental illness is transmittable by contact, personal contact. You've been talking to all these people and — look, let's go. Let's take that list that you just threw up, and let's add in one more big state just for the heck of it, Texas. It is unclear whether the filing deadline has closed in Texas or not. We have a —


WALLACE: — Texas primary moved back to May.

ROVE: — moved back to May, but it's unclear whether they will reopen the filing deadline. But let's assume they do for a minute. There are 554 delegates up in those states that you talked about, plus Texas; 222 of them awarded, winner take all; 332 of them awarded proportionately.

So in other words, even if the candidate gets in and wins the big states with winner take all, and wins half of the states with proportional, wins half of those delegates, we're talking about 350 out of over 2,000 delegates. And that may be enough to toss it into a convention that gets — that gets decided at the convention, but that is different than — no brokering a convention.

No, no, no, brokered convention is you work it — you've got it all worked out and you've got the...


WALLACE: ...contested convention.

ROVE: A contested convention like 1976 where Gerald Ford goes in and they...

WALLACE: So are you now suggesting, are you now willing to say this is a possibility?

ROVE: No. I think it is remote as life on Pluto.

It could happen, sure. You can make up all kinds of scenarios. But in all likelihood what happens in the dynamic of the primaries, once somebody starts to win they keep on winning.

WALLACE: Here nobody keeps winning.

ROVE: We have got a nationwide, at least in the punditry class, a call of premature electionitis. We have had five contests so far that have awarded delegates. We have had eight contests, including — in which delegates could conceivably be — and one beauty contest. We have got 54 contests in this thing. And we concluded five of them.

TRIPPI: If Romney loses Michigan the train wreck keeps happening. And I can call it that, because we usually — Democrats are the ones who usually have these kind of train wrecks in their nominating process, but this one is — if he loses Michigan, I think it's — and he's being moved on both sides. Gingrich is holding up in Georgia, Santorum in Michigan. He's not being, they are not splitting up each other's votes yet the way they have been in other states. And so this is going to be a big problem for Romney. His money may not make a big difference here.

WALLACE: So, wait, wait.

ROVE: This guy had an aeronautical engineering degree. We just heard from the rocket scientist from the panel.

WALLACE: So are you saying Joe you think there is a possibility that somebody else gets in the race?

TRIPPI: Yes. I absolutely believe that is very possible, particularly if Romney loses Michigan. I would suspect that that's going happen if he loses Michigan.

STRASSEL: The question is who is the savior? Exactly. I mean, nothing changed since last fall.

WALLACE: You can name a bunch of saviors. I mean, just go ask Bill Kristol, Jeb Bush, Paul Ryan, Marco Rubio, Mitch Daniels...

ROVE: ...Sarah Palin. She happy to...

STRASSEL: All of these people have refused already. And it has only become harder since that time. It seems difficult to believe one of these now jumps into the race.

WALLACE: Well, as Ernest Hemingway said at the end of The Sun Also Rises, isn't it pretty to think so?

Meanwhile, there are folks out there who say because of the lack of enthusiasm for a Republican or Democratic candidate, that this is the first time in 20 years that a viable third-party candidate could do some damage.

In the New York Times on Sunday, columnist Tom Friedman nominated David Walker, former U.S. comptroller general, to put his hat in the ring, saying that as a centrist who realizes that we need to be serious about reforming entitlement programs like Social Security and Medicare as well as raising taxes, he would raise the whole level of discussion in the national conversation.

But could David Walker fire up people based solely on ideas? There is probably something to the idea that Americans are hungrier for truth-telling than ever before when it comes to our finances, but in politics, the messenger has to have some sort of charisma. For all his wackiness, Ross Perot brought some of that to the table 20 years ago. A charismatic thirty-party candidate with financial backing could bring some energy and excitement to what is looking at this point to be an uninspiring fall election.

  • Republicans still lust for Jeb Bush to enter the race

As the 2012 presidential campaign moves along ever so slowly with no primaries scheduled for another week, is there anybody out there excited about any candidate running for president right now?

The Sunday copy of the Tampa Tribune contained an above-the-fold article by chief political reporter William March on the Obama campaign's operation in Florida, in which aides call it "the biggest grass-roots campaign organization in Florida history."

Expect to see more stories echoing that theme throughout the year. The infrastructure is very solid for Obama in the Sunshine State, though officials in the re-election campaign are notoriously tight-lipped on the numbers of staffers or volunteers working the effort.

With a recent uptick in the economy, the president's chances of winning Florida look better than they have in the past year, although with over eight more months to go before the general election, the nice wave could prove to be a temporary blip. With gas prices and the European financial crisis still in flux, anything can happen.

As the election nears, no doubt many progressives who have been turned off by Obama's more pragmatic approach may start coming around. But nobody, least of all Obama, thinks he'll generate the intense excitement seen in 2008.

And in the Republican ranks, the lack of excitement is becoming a little deja vu-ish of 2008, when it took Sarah Palin's selection to the ticket for the grass roots to get fired up. The eventual candidate presumably will get all of the anti-Obama vote, though the reduced turnout in the primaries so far seems to put that theory into some question.

There is one GOP candidate who generates real passion. But his name is Ron Paul, and even he doesn't think he's going to get the nomination.

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