Politico’s Mike Allen sent people flipping through their Rolodex yesterday, when his daily Playbook e-mail said that a “tippy-top Republican” was sketching out a scenario where a new candidate is introduced into the race if Rick Santorum continues to win contests and proves Romney to be too weak. The idea is that a fresh candidate would instantly excite everyone, attract a ton of media attention, and potentially win a “contested” GOP convention.
But this candidate doesn’t exist.
Let’s review the names.
Jeb Bush: He has name recognition, but not exactly the kind you want. Obama’s poll-tested line of attack is that he is fighting anyone who would “return us to the failed policies” that created the financial crisis. Imagine the attack ads: You’ve already had two Bush recessions. Do you really want a third? Also, Bush is as vulnerable to the charge that he is soft on immigration as Rick Perry was.
Mitch Daniels: Who? That’s what most people will be asking. The governor of Indiana has already indicated that he didn’t want to run for president. If he did, he’d already be running. Like Jon Huntsman, he has a rock-solid set of conservative credentials, but his persona and demeanor aren’t a match for conservatives who want a big fight.
Chris Christie: Well, he already endorsed Romney. So to even entertain it would be a massive and acrimonious betrayal. The media would greet his candidacy by replaying his Romney endorsement speech on a continuous loop. Also, he can’t just pick fights with random citizens across the country and expect to win.
Bobby Jindal: This would be Tim Pawlenty 2.0 Another competent and religious governor who has trouble exciting anyone outside of his homestate. Romney could end up destroying him in a debate the way he did to Rick Perry earlier in the cycle.
Sarah Palin: Ha! She would have to win California and New Jersey. Republican insiders are trying to avoid Rick Santorum because they think he is too combative in the culture wars. They’re not going to ditch Rick for Palin.
We’ve already seen three of the most successful Republican governors of the last decade drop out in this election: Pawlenty, Huntsman, and Perry. For reasons of strategy, electoral mood, and campaign skills, they failed. The alternatives listed above are no more qualified than those three, and many of them have obvious weaknesses.
Republicans are stuck with Mitt Romney, Rick Santorum, Ron Paul, and Newt Gingrich as their field. They are a flawed bunch, but there is no perfect or obvious candidate waiting in the wings.
Anyone launching a campaign now would have difficulty even getting on the ballot in enough states to plausibly compete. Many would be outraged that a candidate would have the gall to bypass the 20-something debates and several early primaries. Their entrance, especially if backed by establishment people in the party, would be incredibly destructive to the likely nominee (Romney) and to party unity. It would be a fiasco.
Allen’s “tippy-top” Republican is engaging in wishful thinking. And the news media, bored with candidacies that are almost a year old already, are doing the same.
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