The 2012 dark horse is ... Jim DeMint?

DeMint, in this scenario, would run as a spoiler/insurgent candidate in 2012, setting himself up for a full-on presidential run in 2016. DeMint, running in 2012, would knock Sarah Palin out of the primaries, crushing any momentum she received out of Iowa … even though DeMint would be the obvious homestate favorite, Palin needs a victory in South Carolina to acquire momentum for later contests in larger states with less conservative electorates. (It’s not that South Carolina is less conservative, it’s that it’s seen as part of the process.) Anyway, if Mitt Romney or Tim Pawlenty wanted help, they could find a way to…persuade DeMint to run a spoiler’s campaign in Iowa and South Carolina…and then find an elegant way to drop out…positioning himself perhaps as a vice presidential candidate (obsessed with spending and the deficit, well-made to make sure that Southern white voters turn out, balancing the ticket).

In any event, DeMint could become the conservative front-runner in 2016 — even though the likes of Jon Huntsman, Jr. (who still has presidential ambitions, all the way from China), Bob McDonnell of Virginia and even Jeb Bush would be viable candidates.