It’s April 12, 2011. Do you know who your candidates are?
It may seem early to start thinking about next year’s presidential election, but by the standards of recent history it’s already getting late. President Obama, of course, just kicked off his 2012 reelection campaign with an ad designed to appeal to supporters who are disillusioned with Obama’s inability to live up to all of his lofty campaign promises. But in spite of the weak economy and Obama’s middling approval ratings, no one seems to want to challenge him. The surprising lack of Republican candidates convinced NBC to cancel an early presidential debate that was supposed to be held at the Reagan Library on May 5.
Mitt Romney did finally announce his own candidacy. Romney is widely considered the most electable Republican—the most likely to appeal to moderate swing voters, in other words—at least as long as General Petraeus continues to refuse to run. But Romney has has a potentially decisive liability: his main political accomplishment is crafting the Massachusetts health care program on which Obamacare—which all the other Republicans will be running against—was based.
Besides Romney, who’s running? Most prominent Republicans from Jeb Bush to Sarah Palin are staying out of the race, at least for now. Former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich and Tea Party favorite Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-MN) will probably put their names in eventually. Former Minnesota Governor Tim Pawlenty and wealthy talk show host Herman Cain have formed exploratory committees, but if you’re like most Americans you don’t know have much idea who they are. Then, of course, there is real estate developer and reality show star Donald Trump, although no one is quite sure if his candidacy is just a publicity stunt. A recent Fox News poll found that when asked impressed they were with field of Republican candidates, nearly two-thirds said either “not very” or “not at all.”
“I don’t see anyone in the current field right now,” Rep. David Dreier (R-CA) tells Politico. “Everybody’s looking for a Ronald Reagan, and they don’t see one.”
Photo credit: John Trainor