From 2010 to 2012

Article excerpt

Byline: Andrew Romano

When GOP presidential hopefuls say they're focused on helping the party win as many seats as possible in upcoming midterm elections, they're not lying, per se. They're just not telling the whole truth. In reality, the bigger priority for these ambitious politicians is figuring which 2010 outcome will put them in the best position for 2012. For some, that means a Tea Party wave; for others, precisely the opposite. According to experts from across the political spectrum, here's what the 2012 contenders with the most at stake in this year's races will be wishing for on Election Day:

Sarah Palin, Alaska

Eleven of 18 Palin endorsees won their primaries. That's a decent record. But for Palin to prove that her power extends beyond the GOP's far-right fringe, candidates like Christine O'Donnell and Rand Paul will need to survive November's general election.

Mitt Romney, Massachusetts

Romney's Massachusetts health-care reforms served as the model for Obamacare, a law that Romney's own party now uniformly opposes. His best hope is that pro-repeal Republicans lose in November--or lose interest shortly thereafter.

Mike Huckabee, Arkansas

Huckabee needs a sign that the base still cares mainly about social issues. If the Tea Party stays focused on taxes, which Huck raised in Arkansas, he's toast. (He'll also have to increase his anemic fundraising to keep up with the rest of the field. …