Asked to choose a single word to describe the Republican slate of candidates, fully 37 percent of self identified Republicans and Republican leaners chose a word with a negative connotation — with “not impressed/unimpressed” the most commonly mentioned phrase.
Among all respondents, 44 percent offered a negative one-word assessment of the Republican field including, not suprisingly, 52 percent of Democrats. More potentially problematic for Republicans hoping to unseat President Obama next November was the fact that 48 percent of Independents described the GOP candidates negatively while just 10 percent offered a positive one-word description.
The dissatisfaction with the Republican field comes in the wake of decisions by former Arkansas governor Mike Huckabee and Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels not to run. Both men were considered serious contenders for the GOP nod.
The level of unhappiness is likely to stoke speculation about possible candidacies by the likes of Texas Gov. Rick Perry, who seemed to open the door to a bid last week, and former Alaska governor Sarah Palin who is in the midst of a free-wheeling bus tour around the country.
Other names regularly mentioned as 2012 candidates including former Florida governor Jeb Bush, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie and South Carolina Sen. Jim DeMint have unequivocally ruled out the possibility of running.
Even if none of the people mentioned decide to run, the lack of excitement about the 2012 field poses a problem for those candidates already in the race as the speculation has the effect of minimizing them and making it tougher for any one of them to build real momentum in the race.
It remains to be seen whether the level of voter dissatisfaction about the field will dissipate in any significant way once the race is genuinely joined — a moment that appears to be drawing close.
Former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney, the frontrunner for the nomination, will formally enter the race tomorrow in New Hampshire and former Pennsylvania senator Rick Santorum will make his campaign official next Monday. On June 13, the candidates will debate in New Hampshire.