In modern American politics, the race for the President starts very early indeed. President Obama shuffled his deck of advisors and kicked off his campaign in the spring, and the Republican field is well ordered here in the early days of summer. With less than 17 months to go, the horses are already in their stalls. Handicapping the GOP horse-race is a difficult process, in large part because many conservatives are more likely to apply the alternate meaning of the verb, to handicap. With less than a year until the first primaries, not a single GOP candidate stands out as a likely conservative champion. This column takes a brief look at the field, the race, and the odds.
The field is, at best, eclectic. Professional presidential candidate Mitt Romney leads a cast of thousands (well, nine isn’t really a thousand, sorry); professional social network commentator Sarah Palin, Tea Party favorite and pizza magnate Herman Cain, former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, former Minnesota governor Tim Pawlenty, House Tea Party caucus leader Michelle Bachmann, former Utah governor John Huntsman, populist champion Ron Paul, and former Senator Rick Santorum. All of the above have a special point of appeal for conservatives, and all of the above are burdened with a fatal flaw in the minds of conservatives. Whoever takes the prize next summer, will do so at great cost, because this nomination fight is likely to set new standards in electioneering and positioning. The winner will almost certainly have accomplished the deed by veering far to the right, and will be rewarded by having to face a man who dominated the middle the last time around.