Conservatives are still upset about the GOP presidential field and even still thinking about drafting another candidate, although in fact it’s far too late for that. For example, over at National Review this morning Rich Lowry is pining for…someone, and quotes a conservative he talked to who said “we don’t have our A team on the field.”
It’s certainly true that the candidates who have been showing up for debates for the last several months are an unimpressive group. I think, however, that complaints about the field are mostly just an illusion caused by the way the GOP process works – and will shortly be irrelevant. The illusion is caused by what appears to be highly efficient winnowing on the Republican side. The truth is that a field of Mitt Romney, Rick Perry, Tim Pawlenty, Haley Barbour, and one or two of the others who tiptoed around Iowa but never launched full-blown campaigns would have been a perfectly respectable group. What happened was that Pawlenty and Barbour and, perhaps, others such as John Thune and Sarah Palin were winnowed out rapidly, making the “field” seem thin. Of course, the other part of it is that Republicans this time around didn’t really have any true top-tier heavyweights available. There just wasn’t anyone with a resume like that of Ronald Reagan in 1980, George H.W. Bush in 1988, or Bob Dole in 1996. About the closest they come on paper to that is Sarah Palin, and of course she’s just not as impressive as “recent VP nominee” would make it sound.
But the truth is that none of that matters beyond whenever the nomination is clinched. The Republican field won’t be running against Barack Obama; only one person, the nominee, will be. And the odds are very good that the nominee will be someone who is perfectly acceptable to almost all Republicans and who will appear to be a safe choice to most swing voters. Republicans aren’t going to nominate Herman Cain, and are very unlikely to nominate obviously weak candidates such as Newt Gingrich, or Ron Paul, or Michele Bachmann or Rick Santorum. All this stuff about a weak field will be forgotten instantly, by everyone, as soon as the nominee is selected – indeed, as soon as the next winnowing takes places after Iowa and New Hampshire.