We were talking to a group of senior Republicans recently about the election, and here’s the essence of what they said: Damn it. We should have gotten Chris Christie or Mitch Daniels or Paul Ryan to run.
A sense of lost opportunity is starting to seep through GOP ranks. Republicans believe the president is eminently beatable. But they’re increasingly convinced that none of their candidates are up to the job.
The two contenders with any real chance, Mitt Romney and Newt Gingrich, each display devastating drawbacks. That’s why so many Republicans mourn for the putative Prince Charmings who never even tried to kiss the princess – Christie, the New Jersey governor; Daniels, the Indiana governor; and Ryan, the Wisconsin congressman.
Republican pollster John Zogby offers numbers to illustrate his party’s miasmic mood. Forty-two percent of all Republicans still rate their choices as only fair or poor. Among independents, the rate of dissatisfaction jumps to 72 percent. And in a survey of all voters, Pew reports that by a margin of 2-to-1, their impression of the GOP field is actually getting worse, not better.
Until recently, Republican insiders kept their deepening dismay to themselves, but now it’s breaking through the surface. Conservative columnist George Will writes of Romney and Gingrich: “Both are too risky to anoint today.” Commentator Charles Krauthammer is equally distraught: “This is a weak Republican field with two significantly flawed front-runners.”