The Republican presidential field really does leave much to be desired.
It was for good reason that high-powered Republicans were begging New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush and House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan to enter the race for the White House before it was too late.
Unfortunately for the GOP, those potential juggernauts weren’t persuaded to take the jump, and now the White House contenders the GOP is stuck with are either utterly unappealing or have a glaring inadequacy that makes their candidacy less than ideal.
Let’s start with front-runner Mitt Romney, who very well may be the best of the bunch. And to be sure, there is plenty to appreciate about him and his record, especially his extraordinary business background and his ability to speak in complete sentences. But as George Will devastatingly pointed out, “Republicans may have found their Michael Dukakis, a technocratic Massachusetts governor.”
Conservatives don’t seek technocracy because they don’t believe empowered wannabe philosopher kings can solve America’s ills from commanding heights. We also don’t really know what Romney’s core is, because he seems so willing to change his positions on any given issue to suit the political zeitgeist. And let us not forget that the man the GOP may put forth to challenge President Obama is arguably the architect of President Obama’s most derided policy initiative — his health care law.
The newest top-tier candidate is former House Speaker Newt Gingrich. Republican voters have turned to Newt because they believe he offers substance. But he also has substantial baggage (see, for starters, the affairs that ended two marriages and his lucrative gigs flacking for corporate welfare).
And while Newt comes across as professorial — after all, he was a professor — this is not a profession from which great politicians and leaders usually come. They are often too much enamored with their own mind and stuck in the theoretical — remember Bill Buckley’s quip about preferring to pick leaders at random from the Boston phonebook than the Harvard faculty list? (RELATED: The Daily Caller’s complete coverage of Elections 2012)
Then you have former Godfather’s Pizza CEO Herman Cain. Let’s put aside for a moment whether the sexual harassment allegations against him are true or not. Despite being tremendously likable and possessing an impressive business background, he clearly has deep gaps in policy knowledge — or, as he might put it, there are just so many things “twirling around in [his] head.” Perhaps worst of all, it doesn’t seem that he has done very much to develop positions on significant issues like, say, the little conflict in Afghanistan where the American military is currently engaged. Instead of presenting a position, he says he will consult experts as president. That is not a serious position for someone who is seriously running for president.
Enter Texas Gov. Rick Perry. He was supposed to be the savior of the lackluster list of GOP contenders. In case you don’t have a television, let’s just say that hasn’t turned out to be the case. We need not expend any more energy ridiculing the governor — he’s done more than a sufficient job of that himself by merely opening his mouth. You don’t need to be as smart as Newt Gingrich to be president, but there is a threshold that needs to be met.
There are other candidates running, but none of them appear to have any chance of winning the nomination — and none of them merit greater consideration, with the possible exception of former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum, who has performed quite ably in the debates. (Before you write-in, I didn’t accidentally leave out Ron Paul. Also, incidentally, the Republican primary field is not in any way similar to the composition of a ComicCon convention.)
All of this is not to say that President Obama would be preferable to the Republican contenders — he clearly wouldn’t. And I suspect Romney would be a formidable general election candidate — and perhaps even make a stellar president. As for Newt, he certainly would make next fall’s debates well worth watching.
But with the economy in shambles, the world on fire and President Obama exceedingly vulnerable politically, it’s hard to believe this is the crop of contenders Republicans are being forced to choose from.