As GOP 2012 Field Firms Up, So Does Discontent Over The GOP 2012 Field

So the word is out! The GOP field for the 2012 nomination is set. And the enthusiasm is pretty much not palpable. But why is that? By my reckoning, the current field includes:

  • The Guy Who Invented ObamaCare (Mitt Romney)
  • The Guy Who Imploded 48 Hours After Announcing (Newt Gingrich)
  • The Guy Who Is The "Secret Progressive" (Jon Huntsman)
  • The Pizza Guy (Herman Cain; if you're not satisfied with your pizza, be sure to check out Cain's right of return policy)
  • The Guy With The "Google Problem" (Rick Santorum)
  • America's Most Beloved Libertarian (Ron Paul)
  • America's Most Beloved Libertarian On Weed (Gary Johnson)
  • Maybe, America's Top Internet Troll (Sarah Palin)
  • Probably, America's Top Michele Bachmann (Michele Bachmann)
  • Two Dudes Who The GOP Have Made Into Apostates For Being Anti-Lobbyist and Pro-LGBT Rights, Respectively (Buddy Roemer, Fred Karger)
  • And Finally, Ol' What's His Name, The Guy Who's Not Mitch Daniels (Tim Pawlenty)

Hey, that includes three people (Romney, Gingrich, and Huntsman) who have, in the past, supported the individual health insurance mandate that's now a taboo topic in conservative circles.

And so, the National Review's Rich Lowry is wondering, "Is This It?"

How's this for an impressive Republican lineup?

A likable former governor and TV personality; a two-term governor with an unmatched fiscal record; another former governor with the best education-reform credentials in the country; a rising star in the House; and a photogenic senator from the heartland.

They are Mike Huckabee, Mitch Daniels, Jeb Bush, Mike Pence, and John Thune. The Republicans sitting out the 2012 nomination battle would themselves make a formidable field. Indeed, more formidable than the actual entrants. The hottest place to be in Republican politics right now is sitting on the sidelines.

Hope, of course, springs eternal. Lowry's holding out for the possibility that there's a future announcement coming from New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie or Wisconsin Rep. Paul Ryan. (Why Paul Ryan would run for president remains a mystery to me -- as a member of the House of Representatives, he'll have an easier time simply retaining his seat, from which he's been able to project considerable influence over the grand policy debates. What's the upside in giving that up?)

Former New York mayor Rudy Giuliani, whose presidential campaign fizzled in 2008, is leaning toward another race for the White House, according to a close associate. New York Republican Rep. Peter King, who has known Giuliani for more than 40 years, says the former mayor "is very close to saying he's going to run."

"If he were to make the decision today, he would run," says King.

According to King, Giuliani is "quietly lining up support and exploring strategy." He's also apparently taking stock in the mistakes he made in 2008, such as the fact that he waited to compete, and eventually fell "hopelessly behind." Given the fact that he is, at the moment, waiting to compete and falling behind, it's not clear that he's actually taken this lesson to heart.

David Brooks is taking Mitch Daniels' decision to not get into the race so hard that he's basically now writing columns suggesting we just turn Capitol Hill over to the Redcoats, or at least give political power in America to the insular Beltway tribes "who have ... known each other since prep school." (It seems to be lost on Brooks that political power has been consolidated in the hands of those people who now exclusively fund electoral campaigns from their corporate aeries and dispatch their underlings to lobby legislators for favorable treatment.)

For what it's worth, the Obama team seems to be expecting to face a serious challenge, whether folks like Lowry are excited by the field at the moment or not. Marc Ambinder captures the Obama re-elect team as being genuinely relieved that Daniels won't be making a run, but seem to regard Romney and Pawlenty as legit contenders. More importantly, Ambinder suggests that there's an overall acknowledgement that "the sluggish economic recovery" is a "more conspicuous" issue.

But that's looking far ahead. Today, right-leaning pundits feel about the same way they felt about the field last week -- let down and hoping for a white knight to emerge. As Ambinder points out, the vagaries of the GOP nominating process will keep these hopes alive through the fall:

Since the nomination rests on delegate accumulation, a Republican can enter the race as late as November and still be eligible to win them in the big states. A candidate who says "no" today -- even Mitch Daniels -- might be persuaded to become a "yes" by November.

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