Why the GOP is stuck with its lousy candidates

Even if Republicans disdain their options in the 2012 presidential race, says Ed Kilgore in The New Republic, they should quit dreaming about drafting better candidates

Republicans may not be satisfied with presidential candidates like Tim Pawlenty, but recruiting a reluctant alternative isn't the answer, says Ed Kilgore in The New Republic.
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If those on the Right think drafting a Jeb Bush or Chris Christie or Rick Perry will "rescue the lackluster Republican 2012 field from itself," says Ed Kilgore in The New Republic, they're "living in a hopeless fantasyland." History has shown that "dark-horse candidates who aren't fully committed to running for president" simply can't win. Remember 2008 when, as now, many Republicans were "disenchanted" with their stable of candidates, and "the GOP's brilliant backup plan was Draft Fred Thompson." On paper, it made sense. Actor and former senator Thompson was conservative enough to placate activists without threatening swing voters" — "sort of Tim Pawlenty with a growl and gravitas." But, once dragged into the race, Thompson lacked commitment. It became clear "he wasn't running for president so much as walking — or even riding a golf cart — with abundant stops for rest and ice cream." Here, an excerpt:

The whole exercise was a pointless disaster that raised the GOP's hopes and ultimately saddled the party with a weak nominee — so weak, in fact, that McCain had to choose Sarah Palin as his running-mate in order to preserve a semblance of unity....

The moral of the story for 2012 is that the presidential campaign trail is brutal and unforgiving — particularly right now, and particularly for Republicans. The early Republican caucuses and primaries will be dominated by conservative activists who want a crusade, not a mere political campaign, and will almost certainly punish candidates who don't give the impression that they will fight for every vote.

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