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Posted at 10:15 AM ET, 02/11/2011

Worried Republicans = opportunity for non-candidates

By Jennifer Rubin

If you talk to Republicans in D.C. -- or in Israel, for that matter -- the overwhelming sentiment about the 2012 contenders is a mix of un-enthusiasm and nervousness. Republicans genuinely believe that the economy and Obama's failure to exert leadership on our fiscal crisis provide an opening for Republicans to do the unusual -- defeat an incumbent president. But Republicans have become a savvy lot after the disappointment of 2008 and the loss of some Tea Party favorites in 2010. In short, you can't beat Democrats with uninspiring or flaky candidates.

Today a number of frequently mentioned candidates (Mitt Romney, Tim Pawlenty, Sen. John Thune (R-S.D.) and Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels) will address the Conservative Political Action Conference. But ask a Republican activist about the field, and you generally get a shrug. A Republican in the financial industry and his wife express antipathy toward Obama in the strongest terms imaginable. ("He is ruining this country!") They'd support "anybody but Obama" but don't identify anyone in particular. A name that doesn't come up: Sarah Palin.

There is widespread conservative fretting within the Beltway. Could a golden opportunity slip through the GOP's fingers? Well, in 1992 then-Gov. Bill Clinton saw a mediocre field, jumped into the race and proved himself to be head-and-shoulders above the competition. And so rather than panic and buy into the narrative that Republicans have no viable challenger, Republicans should look more carefully at the current crop (Tim Pawlenty is making headway in name identification and by comparison to flawed opponents). More important, their ideal candidate could well be someone who's initially ruled out a run or who's been quietly biding his time. The flip side of "the Republicans have no one" is "There's room for someone to take the party by storm."

By Jennifer Rubin  | February 11, 2011; 10:15 AM ET
Categories:  2012 campaign  
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Comments

The other dynamic to bear in mind is the media's blatant partisanship. The writers and editors of what is now termed the MSM will seek to damage anyone they percieve as a threat to Obama.

I noted on Mr Sargent's blog that presidential campaigns are long affairs now. That means that Obama will be getting hammered by contenders for years. We saw this with the Bush re election.

But it also means that the media and other liberal sycophants have a longer time to use their yellow journalism to destroy anyone they believe has potential.

We'll see an enormous amount of Macaca this time around and the public will be indated with rumor and astroturf.

here's a perfect example: The push to demand that Justice Thomas recuse himself started out as a letter from, inter alia, Anthony "Little" Weiner (ht mark levin) now that the partisans in the MSM have picked up the story look for the liberal big lie machinery to kick into overdrive.

The potential contenders will face a fire storm of liberal media bullets. Surviving that crucible will be tough, but it will assure us of a candidate that can win despite it.

Posted by: skipsailing28 | February 11, 2011 10:45 AM | Report abuse

Well, in 1992 then-Gov. Bill Clinton saw a mediocre field, jumped into the race and proved himself to be head-and-shoulders above the competition.

Nope,Clinton was lucky that a 3rd party took 18% of the popular vote away from the incumbent. I'm sure if a strong liberal 3rd party guy ran and took 18% of the popular vote from Obama,Pawlenty could win.

Posted by: rcaruth | February 11, 2011 12:09 PM | Report abuse

I'm glad Republicans are focusing on electability. That rules out at least half the potential candidates, including Palin, Huckabee, Gingrich and, of course, Paul. GOP voters should use a simple test: Can this candidate carry Ohio? Only if the answer is yes should they consider supporting the candidate.

Posted by: eoniii | February 11, 2011 4:04 PM | Report abuse

please god, let it be huckabee/palin, or gingrich/pence. 1964 all over again,and rubin drowns in her own bile.

Posted by: jimfilyaw | February 11, 2011 4:58 PM | Report abuse

2010 was the best thing that could have happened for Obama. It got the energy out from the right and gave the left something to get fired up about again. If the economy continues to improve Obama's job approval numbers will inch toward 60 percent. And then the GOP will face a 1964/1972/1984-style blowout where it only wins Oklahoma, Alabama and Utah. In such a scenario the GOP will devote its resources toward the Senate and holding its gains in the House.

Posted by: ElrodinTennessee | February 11, 2011 9:24 PM | Report abuse

rcaruth,

There is zero evidence that Perot cost Bush reelection. Exit polls showed his support coming from across the ideological spectrum. Exit polls also asked Perot voters who they would have voted for if Perot had not been running, and the result was an even split between Bush and Clinton.

So get your facts straight.

Posted by: sportsman885 | February 14, 2011 9:04 PM | Report abuse

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