After past week’s developments, the situation has gotten even bleaker for the Republican Party in the run-up to next year’s presidential election.
Mike Huckabee, the former Arkansas governor, who did well in 2008 before John McCain became the party’s candidate, announced that he was not a candidate. He prefers to continue as a well-paid employee at Fox television. “My heart was not in it,” he said. Huckabee joined Mississippi Governor Haley Barbour, South Dakota Senator John Thune, and Mike Pence, congressman from Indiana, all of whom had earlier announced that they are will not run.
Newt Gingrich, however, is running. Now 67 years old and a throwback to the 90’s monumental confrontations with President Bill Clinton, Gingrich is a man with a politically and personally controversial past. Last week, a New York Times editorial called what Gingrich stands for “repellent.” Such a comment from the liberal Times can be an advantage for him among the party’s right wing and the Tea Party-movement, but, when it comes down to it, Gingrich is judged to have little or no chance to win the nomination.
Mitt Romney continues to insist that he is a candidate and that he should be taken seriously. But it does not look good for him after his attempt this past week to explain and explain away his health care reform in Massachusetts a few years ago and how he, at the same time, can sharply criticize President Obama’s health care reform. The whole thing is odd and rings false. The truth is that Romney’s reform is very similar to Obama’s, so hated by the Republicans, as expressed by a Wall Street Journal editorial last week, which brutally attacked Romney, saying that he might as well be Obama’s running mate next year.
So where are we today? Well, former Minnesota Governor Tim Pawlenty leads a weak and largely unknown field of candidates, now weakened further by Huckabee’s decision. It remains to be seen whether the 2008 vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin or Tea Party favorite Michele Bachmann decide to run. Palin: probably not. Bachmann: probably. Or what Indiana Governor Mitch Daniels decides do to. No one seems yet to know.
No matter what they decide, it does not fundamentally change the Republicans’ problem: they have no serious challenger to President Obama, who now plays with much better cards after the operation against Osama bin Laden, and who will be, at about a billion dollars, very expensive to defeat.
Maybe the chances are greater to win back the majority in the Senate and to preserve the majority in the House of Representatives, thereby making it very difficult for a re-elected Obama. That prospect may prove to be a good consolation prize for the Republicans.