Republican voters, activists, leaders, and pundits are all coming to the same realization: in November, either Mitt Romney or Newt Gingrich will be the GOP nominee against President Obama. And as this insight takes root, many of those same voters, activists, leaders, and pundits are once again asking, “Are we sure it’s too late to nominate someone else?”

The latest is the New York Times‘ Ross Douthat, who weighed in yesterday.

For months now, even as the rest of the conservative commentariat has gradually resigned itself to the existing presidential field, the Weekly Standard’s Bill Kristol has continued to pine — publicly, unstintingly, immune to either embarrassment or fatigue — for another candidate to jump into the race. He’s dreamed of Mitch Daniels, touted Chris Christie, talked up Paul Ryan and Marco Rubio, name-dropped Jeb Bush, and circled back to Daniels once more. He’s quoted poetry on behalf of his cause — Yeats, and (with some revisions) Andrew Marvell. He’s endured snark from the Huffington Post, eye-rolling from Slate, mockery from New York Magazine. But he’s continued undeterred — and in the wake of Newt Gingrich’s South Carolina victory, he was back at it again, throwing out a link to “a new online petition was launched Saturday night … at”

And do you know what? He’s been right all along. Right that the decisions by various capable Republicans to forgo a presidential run this year have been a collective disgrace; right that Republican primary voters deserve a better choice than the one being presented to them; and right, as well, that even now it isn’t too late for one of the non-candidates to change their mind and run.


Over the late summer and early fall, when a large number of party officials expressed deep dissatisfaction with the GOP field, it was not unreasonable to reach out to possible candidates watching from the sidelines. Indeed, to a certain extent, these efforts worked — Rick Perry got into the race.

But September was a long time ago. Iowa, New Hampshire, and South Carolina have already weighed in, and Florida is a week away. I don’t blame Republicans for feeling underwhelmed, at a minimum, by the prospect of a Gingrich or Romney nomination, but it’s past time for the right to come to terms with the reality of the situation.

There are no white knights coming to rescue the party. It’s simply too late. As Eric Kleefeld documented nicely, “In every primary state up through early April, the filing deadlines have passed. That includes the very delegate-rich Super Tuesday of March 6…. [F]or a Republican hero to ride in on a white horse, it would take a scenario that verges on political science fiction: A combination of write-in voting where applicable — and for Romney to fully drop out and endorse this new savior candidate, to essentially bequeath his place on the ballot by telling his pledged delegates elected in this manner to go along with it.”

And what about talk of a brokered Republican convention? That’s “not going to happen,” either.

There are four candidates left — Romney, Gingrich, Santorum, and Paul — and one of them will win the 2012 Republican nomination. If the party isn’t satisfied with these choices, too bad. They should have thought of that before it was too late.

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Steve Benen

Follow Steve on Twitter @stevebenen. Steve Benen is a producer at MSNBC's The Rachel Maddow Show. He was the principal contributor to the Washington Monthly's Political Animal blog from August 2008 until January 2012.