Here’s what you need to know about the Republican candidate field: this is it. No one starts running for president in August, less than six months before the voters start getting involved in Iowa and New Hampshire, and has any chance at all. At least, it’s never happened since the modern process has been fully in place (say, by 1980). And there’s no reason to expect it now.
A number of Republican pundit types and party actors have been holding out hope that there’s still time for a “savior” candidate to emerge. But the notion that this is still possible rests on a misunderstanding of the process. Candidates begin running for president long before they make a formal announcement. For example, Rick Perry didn’t start running for president on Saturday. He may not have totally committed to it months ago, but everything about his book and the issues he stressed during the recent session of the Texas legislature (abortion, immigration) suggested that he was actively getting ready to run. In a completely different way, the same thing is true of Sarah Palin. The Sage of Wasilla may or may not finally decide to run in 2012, but she’s been at least half-heartedly running for 2012 all along.
But that’s it. There’s no one else out there on the horizon who has been doing the sorts of things one has to do to run for the Republican nomination for president. Anyone else — Chris Christie, Paul Ryan, whoever — would be starting from scratch, very late in the game.
The other thing I’d say to Republicans disappointed in the current choices (as Ross Douthat says he is today) is this: What you’re upset with isn’t the candidate — it’s the party. It’s inconceivable that anyone could get the Republican nomination while using anything but solid Tea Party rhetoric on pretty much every issue. They’re all going to claim that taxes should never, ever, ever be raised no matter what, that half of what the government does is evil or unconstitutional or whatever, that the scientific consensus on climate is some sort of crazed conspiracy, and so on down the line. I’ve been saying for some time now that the odds are against Republicans actually nominating a candidate who believes crazy things — but the odds of them nominating someone who says crazy things has gone up.
Of course, there’s no way of knowing what a candidate really thinks, but I suspect that Rick Perry fits that latter mold perfectly — as does Mitt Romney. And so would any other candidate who wanted to have any chance at the nomination. That’s what the Republican Party is right now, and that’s what their nominee is going to say. So no saviors need apply.