Could Lou Dobbs' departure from CNN mark the beginning of a "political nightmare" for the GOP? In a sprawling column in Salon, Joe Conason retraces the anchor's steps to make the case that Dobbs will run for president in 2012. In recent years, Dobbs has penned three bestselling books, addressed crowds at the Values Voters Summit and won glowing support from labor groups. As a third party candidate, Dobbs could wreak havoc on the GOP, says Conason. Is he dreaming? Pundits weigh in:

  • The GOP's Kryptonite, writes Joe Conason: "As anyone who has debated him will acknowledge, Lou is smart and informed as well as skillful and telegenic... The history of third-party movements in modern American presidential politics, from Ross Perot to Ralph Nader to Buchanan, suggests that those who should fear him most are his fellow conservatives. Not only would he be capable of splitting at least some of the right-wing 'tea-bagger' vote away from the GOP, but he might insist on exposing the most damaging effects of the market idolatry that has hypnotized the Republican establishment."
  • I Don't Quite Buy It, responds James Poniewozik at Time: "It's reasonable that a media bigshot might be the person to try to grab free-floating voters in '12... I doubt Dobbs is that guy. His politics (heavy on middle-class resentment and suspicion) may be right for it. But I don't think he has the fan base or, more important, the broader charisma, to make any kind of serious run. If he couldn't even mount a serious challenge of Fox News in his timeslot, can he really expect to worry President Obama and the Republican nominee?"
  • Never Gonna Happen, says Dr. Denny at Scholars & Rogues: "Can you imagine Lou, who is wealthy and self-righteous, hitting the campaign trail and pressing the flesh of that middle class with whom he rarely mingles? Can you imagine him dialing for dollars — raising the money to run for office? He’d find that demeaning and beneath him. And he’s hardly likely to self-finance. Lou won’t be entering politics. He does not like being held accountable by any one, whether individual, corporate, or political, for what he says and does. He wants freedom to act without consequence. Nor does he have the temperament to make the deals and compromises all politicians must."
  • Plausible, writes Joe Gandelman at The Moderate Voice: "Of course the problem is funding to run as an independent (not to mention getting on all ballots). And the Republican Party is trying to harness the tea bag protest rage and put it to political use. On the other hand, the 2012 battle for the Republican Presidential nomination promises to be bloody: ambitious Republicans who see 2012 as a good year as Barack Obama and the Demmies deflate the support Obama and the Democrats won in 2008 will not just hand a Sarah Palin or Mike Huckabee the nomination on a silver platter."
  • Not a Laughing Matter, writes Digby at Hullabaloo: "Everyone seems too be applauding the 'Palinization' of the GOP. Lou Dobbs may run for president. Wingnut firebrand Marco Rubio may beat moderate Charlie Christ in Florida. Tom Tancredo just threw his hat into the ring for Colorado Governor. Liberals seem very excited about this prospect as if it's self-evident that just as NY 23 laughed off that dead doorknob Hoffman, the country will always think these people are fools. But what if they don't?"