2012 speculation? Already?

2012 SPECULATION? ALREADY?…. As far as I can tell, there was very little positioning among Republicans for the next presidential race for about 48 hours after Barack Obama became the president-elect. But with only 1,460 or so shopping days until Election Day 2012, that apparently didn’t last long.

Mitt Romney is off on a Caribbean cruise with influential conservative leaders. Romney, Sarah Palin, and Mike Huckabee are stepping up to help Sen. Saxby Chambliss’ runoff campaign in Georgia. Huckabee is poised to kick off a national book tour … in Iowa.

And then there’s Bob Novak, fresh off his bizarre argument that Obama lacks a mandate, promoting his new favorite as the Republicans’ future leader.

In serious conversations among Republicans since their election debacle Tuesday, what name is mentioned most often as the Moses, or Reagan, who could lead them out of the wilderness before 40 years?

To the consternation of many Republicans, it is none other than Newt Gingrich, the former speaker of the House.

Gingrich is far from a unanimous or even a consensus choice to run for president in 2012, but there is a strong feeling in Republican ranks that he is the only leader of their party who has shown the skill and energy to attempt a comeback quickly.

Even one of his strongest supporters for president in 2012 admits it is a “very risky choice.” But Republicans are in a desperate mood after the fiasco of John McCain’s seemingly safe candidacy.

Gingrich, of course, distinguished himself as a giant of the 2008 presidential campaign, arguing that “Saturday Night Live” should be sued for its skits about Palin, and laughing like a school-boy about the notion of improving fuel efficiency with properly inflated tires.

But Gingrich’s ridiculousness notwithstanding, it’s interesting how Republicans like Novak continue to look backwards. While Democrats chose a new, forward-thinking leader for the 21st century, Novak is arguing that the Republican Party needs to look to a failed former Speaker who made his mark in 1995, before becoming widely loathed by the electorate, and ultimately forced from office by his own Republican colleagues.

The GOP’s Moses? I don’t think so.