McCain sees lots of Republicans running in 2012

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Republican Senator John McCain expects many U.S. Republicans to seek the party’s presidential nomination in 2012.

Senator John McCain (R-AZ) speaks at the Reuters Washington Summit September 20, 2010. REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque

“I think there’s going to be 1,000 flowers bloom,” he said Monday at the annual Washington Reuters Summit.

McCain, who won the nomination in 2008 and went on to lose to Democrat Barack Obama in the presidential election, did not predict who he thought might run.

“I think it’s too early,” he said.

A host of Republicans are thinking about a run, including McCain’s vice presidential nominee, Sarah Palin, former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney, Minnesota Governor Tim Pawlenty and former House of Representatives Speaker Newt Gingrich.

Some analysts predict a dozen or so Republicans could seek the chance to challenge Obama’s re-election.

McCain’s advice to Republicans: Keep your eye on New Hampshire.

In the 2008 campaign, McCain spent a great deal of time in New Hampshire -- one of the two states that cast the first votes in presidential nominating contests -- and the state rewarded him with a victory in the Republican primary election, giving him momentum toward the nomination.

He had spent less time in the other early voting state, Iowa, and came in fourth in the Iowa caucuses. In the end, it did not really matter.

“For Republicans it seems to me that New Hampshire is still the very key place,” McCain said.

“The (Iowa) caucuses don’t seem to have the impact anymore that they used to, for the Republicans,” he said.

Reporting by Steve Holland; editing by Mohammad Zargham