Forty percent of Republican voters say they are dissatisfied with the GOP presidential field. Perhaps the reason for this, as Ross Douthat observed in a recent piece, is that it’s difficult to imagine any of the current crop of candidates as the Republican nominee—perhaps aside from Mitt Romney. And yet many conservatives have concerns about Romney, who can’t seem to break 25 percent in the polls. Thus, a carousel of candidates has taken turns matching Romney’s poll numbers, each keeping pace with the former Massachusetts governor for a couple weeks before falling back in the pack. In Douthat’s estimation, the problem is that many of the contestants don’t come across as particularly presidential. Some lack eloquence. Others lack experience. Still others are so one-dimensional or issue-specific that the prospect that they could win the nomination and challenge Obama for the presidency is beyond remote. Douthat may be onto something.
Just compare the current GOP field—and their resumes—to that of past contested primaries.
The leading names in today’s field include Romney, whose resume is certainly of presidential caliber but whose record of “evolving” on key issues—health care and abortion top the list—is unsettling to GOP conservatives. There’s former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich, whose big ideas triggered a political revolution in 1994 but whose personal baggage is unsettling to GOP evangelicals. There’s Herman Cain, a restaurant CEO with perhaps more personal baggage than Gingrich and far less political experience than any other candidate; in fact, Cain has never been elected to office, which is unsettling to GOP establishment types. At the other end of the spectrum is Jon Huntsman, who knows all about the world, has a weighty political resume, lacks any personal baggage but served as Barack Obama’s ambassador to China, which is beyond unsettling to the GOP’s base. There’s Rick Perry, a popular governor with lots of question marks about his discipline, capacity to wage and win a national campaign and ability to attract independents next fall, all of which is unsettling to the GOP’s anybody-but-Obama caucus. And then there’s Ron Paul, a maverick congressman who seems more eager to criticize his party than carry its standard in a general election, and Michele Bachmann, a three-term congresswoman.
Some of those resumes are as thin as, well, the 2008 Democratic nominee’s resume—and some of those candidates are carrying enough baggage to sink any head-to-head matchup with the current president.
Now, consider the resumes of the main Republican candidates from previous years.
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