Republicans ‘depressed’ by 2012 options

The political story of the day appears to be this piece from Mike Allen, noting that “top Republicans are increasingly convinced that President Barack Obama will be easily reelected if stronger GOP contenders do not emerge.” Feeling desperate, the party is turning to a “bland, wonkish” governor, Indiana’s Mitch Daniels, “for an adrenaline boost.”

As a rule, political parties — especially ones that rely on a radical, hysterical base to win elections — do not get adrenaline boosts from bland wonks.

[I]nterviews this week with longtime party activists and strategists made clear that many in the Republican establishment are unnerved by a field led by Mitt Romney, who could have trouble confronting Obama on health reform; Tim Pawlenty, who has yet to ignite excitement; Jon Huntsman, who may be too moderate to get the nomination; and Newt Gingrich, weighed down by personal baggage and a sense that he is a polarizing figure from the 1990s.

Despairing Republican lobbyists say their colleagues don’t ask, “Who do you like?” but instead, “Who do we back?”

“It’s not that they’re up in arms,” said a central player in the GOP money machine. “It’s just that they’re depressed.”

The Republicans’ malaise isn’t just fodder for pundits; it carries real-world consequences. Major donors, activists, and staffers, for example, are waiting on the sidelines, hoping that more compelling candidates will come along. Allen added, “[I]nstead of solidifying against the overwhelming force being amassed by Obama’s reelection campaign, the GOP is indulging in an embarrassingly public — and probably futile — search for a more compelling standard-bearer.”

Party officials are pleading with New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie (R), who has foresworn the possibility. Texas Gov. Rick Perry (R) is the subject of a new round of scuttlebutt, but as of yesterday, he’s not running. Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush (R) is apparently eyeing 2016. Sarah Palin hasn’t ruled out the race, but by all appearances, the party establishment would much prefer she stay out of it. (Allen said D.C. Republicans are “terrified” that she or a similar insurgent candidate, such as Bachmann, will make matters worse.)

And that leaves Daniels — the former Bush official largely responsible for creating a fiscally irresponsible snowball — to play the role of the rescuing hero. Some of this seems to be the result of affection for Daniels, and some is the result of panic-stricken Republicans surveying the current GOP field.

Obviously, we’ll see soon enough, and making confident predictions about this is a fool’s errand, but I wouldn’t be surprised if (a) Daniels struggles to impress anyone outside the political establishment that adores him; (b) Perry reconsiders, unless there’s a secret reason he’s afraid of national scrutiny; and (c) Pawlenty starts to take on the role of Kerry in ’04, becoming the least objectionable alternative who more or less satisfies all of the party’s factions.