The 2012 election: wasn't it supposed to have started by now? If you are a normal person, living your normal life, you probably don't really care. 2012 is supposed to start in 2012, after all, and it's supposed to maybe end in a worldwide cataclysm anyway, so you're probably taking it easy. But we're almost all the way to April, and none of the people who promised to run for president are all that close to making a decision, and it's basically led to sadness and garment-rending among the people who thought they'd be covering it to death by now and happily ignoring things like the fact that you or someone you love doesn't have a job.
The run up to any primary season is one that promises a slate of freaks and geeks to discuss and scrutinize and hyperventilate about, and there's nothing that the media loves to do more than to have a great debate. Back in 2008, having two active slates of candidates vying for attention -- plus an epically drawn out battle on the Democratic side -- provided the opportunity for seemingly hundreds of debates, which in turn allowed your cable news critters ample opportunity to bust out their dial readings and focus groups and octoboxes of analysts, blathering on and on, forever.
Way back in November, Politico and NBC were so sure that they'd have a race on their hands by now that they enthusiastically planned a debate for May. But, as Alex Pareene points out, they've hit a snag because of the lack of "non-ridiculous candidates":
Tim Pawlenty has an exploratory committee, giving the Republican party a grand total of one serious presidential candidate. Newt Gingrich and Michele Bachmann are expected to announce the formation of their own committees later. Maybe.
The best-case scenario would've had Pawlenty and Gingrich and maybe Romney, along with an embarrassing smattering of the fringers and kooks. Mike Huckabee already announced that he would skip this debate regardless of whether he decided to run or not. When they announced this thing, they probably expected Romney and Palin and a few of those terribly well-respected but unelectable senators and low-profile governors that the elites crow about every year. Instead they're getting the Godfather's pizza guy.
That's why, now, this debate is getting scuttled and postponed until September, which is still vastly and insanely early, but nevermind! (Pareene goes on to note that the South Carolina Republican Party will soldier on with what they've got and host a debate on May 5.)
But, while the lack of credible candidates is posing a minor inconvenience for Politico's debate planners, that's nothing compared to the all-out emotional breakdown it's causing Time Magazine's Joe Klein, who basically says that the current state of the GOP slate is nothing short of an embarrassment for America -- you know, as opposed to those halcyon days where Pat Buchanan stalked the campaign trail saying things like "AIDS is nature's retribution for violating the laws of nature":
This is my 10th presidential campaign, Lord help me. I have never before seen such a bunch of vile, desperate-to-please, shameless, embarrassing losers coagulated under a single party's banner. They are the most compelling argument I've seen against American exceptionalism. Even Tim Pawlenty, a decent governor, can't let a day go by without some bilious nonsense escaping his lizard brain. And, as Greg Sargent makes clear, Mitt Romney has wandered a long way from courage. There are those who say, cynically, if this is the dim-witted freak show the Republicans want to present in 2012, so be it. I disagree. One of them could get elected. You never know. Mick Huckabee, the front-runner if you can believe it, might have to negotiate a trade agreement, or a defense treaty, with the Indonesian President some day. Newt might have to discuss very delicate matters of national security with the President of Pakistan. And so I plead, as an unflinching American patriot--please Mitch Daniels, please Jeb Bush, please run. I may not agree with you on most things, but I respect you. And you seem to respect yourselves enough not to behave like public clowns.
Actually, Daniels and Bush seem to respect themselves enough to know they should not jump into a 2012 race that's sure to feature the regular damnation of even the slightest trace of moderation. But, hey, there's always Jon Huntsman, maybe! (Probably not, though.)
Suffice it to say, I haven't entirely closed the door on the possibility that Mitt Romney and Tim Pawlenty could still have a more or less substantive debate. And while Mike Huckabee (who may well not run at all) has lately been going through a spate of thought-fartery when it comes to his public statements, he is normally (as they say) "likable enough." So I'm in no rush to get this campaign started, especially considering it's so enjoyable watching everyone in the world lose their minds over it. And, hey, you can't televise a presidential debate in May of 2011? Fine by me!