How 'pitiful' is the Republican presidential field?

After crunching the numbers, polling guru Nate Silver finds the GOP's slate of potential 2012 candidates among the weakest in memory. How worried should Republicans be?

Though Mike Huckabee has the strongest favorability rating among potential Republican presidential contenders, the numbers are not encouraging.
(Image credit: Corbis)

Republican insiders are fretting about the party's crop of likely 2012 presidential candidates, and they "have some legitimate reason to worry," says The New York Times polling guru Nate Silver. According to public opinion polls, the field is currently "quite weak." Only two likely Republican contenders — Mike Huckabee and Mitt Romney — have positive favorability ratings. Sarah Palin and Newt Gingrich have "especially poor" ratings, in the negative double digits. Is the 2012 GOP field, as The Atlantic's Andrew Sullivan puts it, irredeemably "pitiful?"

The GOP field is weak: These numbers are "bad news for Republicans," says Jim Lindgren in The Volokh Conspiracy. Some of the GOP contenders could make "better than average presidents," but "I see no one who as yet looks to be a better than average candidate." If this is the best the GOP can muster, "President Obama will be hard to beat."

"The political weakness of the 2012 Republican field"

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This is no big deal: The "stunning unpopularity" of the field actually "doesn't strike me as something Republicans should worry about," says Jamelle Bouie in The American Prospect. At least not this early. "Favorability" just means "familiarity" at this stage, and many eventual winners were in mediocre shape early on. Two good examples: At roughly this in their campaign cycles, Bill Clinton had net favorability rating of just +3, while Ronald Reagan's was -1.

"Early polling doesn't matter"

The only numbers that matter are economic: Jobs and economic growth will be the factors that decide our next president, says Brendan Nyhan in The Huffington Post. Sure, the GOP field lacks a "widely praised figure who is held in esteem by both Democrats and Republicans." But "if the economy [remains] bad enough," as long as Republicans pick a nominee who isn't Palin or Gingrich, they'll win.

"Are the Republican presidential candidates weak?"

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