Quite a field

Reader F.B. flagged an interesting exchange on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe” yesterday in which Joe Scarborough passed along assessments of the Republican presidential field from veteran political journalists. Here’s the clip:

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Folks who’ve been covering politics for 40 years told Scarborough, “‘This is the worst field.’ …This is the weakest field they’ve seen, by far. Not even a close second.” Mike Barnicle added, “It used to be up here, there was a libertarian candidate, Lyndon LaRouche and you’d cover him for comic relief…. Now you can cover almost the entire Republican field for comic relief.”

That’s cruel, but it’s not inaccurate.

GOP voters have noticed, too. A new CBS News poll found that only 37% of self-identified Republicans are satisfied with their current choices — and the number of Republicans who want more choices is going up, not down, as the process continues to unfold.

You’d expect to see the opposite at this point, as GOP voters get a better look at their presidential field. But as it turns out, the more Republicans learn about their choices, the more they’d like to support someone else.

And that’s just the rank and file. Among the prominent party voices, Ross Douthat called this “the weakest presidential field of any major party in a generation”; Bill Kristol has invested quite a bit of time urging late-entrants to get into the race; and Fred Barnes put it this way last week: “Would Romney be odds-on to win the nomination if Mitch Daniels or Chris Christie or Paul Ryan or Jeb Bush were in the race? Not likely.”

All of these assessments are quite persuasive. At times, it’s tough to watch the race for the Republican nomination and not think, “Wow, these are some really awful candidates.”

Last month, disgraced former House Speaker Newt Gingrich was in the lead. Not too long before that, Herman Cain was taken seriously as a candidate for national office. Over the summer, Michele Bachmann — Michele Bachmann — appeared to be a top-tier challenger.

The 2012 presidential race was one many Republicans expected to win fairly easily, creating a unique opportunity for those with national ambitions, and yet, the party is left with a field that can generously be described as “mediocrities.”

I have to wonder whether some of those who considered the race but decided not to pull the trigger are kicking themselves at this point.