You know the Republican field for the 2012 nomination for president is a hot mess when former New York governor George Pataki is seriously considering jumping into the race. And nothing captured my emotions more accurately than the lede of today’s editorial in the New York Observer. “Admit it: when you heard that George Pataki was preparing a presidential campaign, you thought you heard wrong,” the pink paper writes.“Then you laughed. And then you laughed a little louder.”

Yep. That pretty much sums it up

As an editorial writer at the New York Daily News, I wrote plenty about Pataki’s stewardship of the Empire State. Look, he did some good things for the state. As the Observer notes, he cut taxes in a state where the burden of the levies drove people and business away. Pataki was a champion of rights: women’s rights; immigration rights and, more quietly, gay rights. His greatest legacy is probably his environmental record. He was green before green was cool — and before the Republican Party started equating climate change with junk science.

But Pataki has issues. Despite exhibiting the ability to stand by his principles and think for himself, he has shown a propensity to cling to Republican orthodoxy no matter how craven and opportunistic his embrace is. When last year’s Times Square bomb plot was foiled, Pataki shamelessly joined the “Blame Obama Chorus,” saying silly things like “a number of the policies of this administration just weaken our efforts to protect ourselves from terror.” Pataki even endorsed Carl Paladino, the belligerent (daresay, dangerously unhinged) GOP candidate for governor last year, who called him a “degenerate idiot.” Sure, it was a last-minute endorsement. But it was a truly troubling move that I saw even then as the first brick on his path to announcing a presidential bid.

In pompoming a Pataki presidential bid, the Observer says that he could be “an adult in a room filled with screaming kids.” And it believes that if he gets into the race, which could come as early as this Saturday in Iowa, he would be successful if he “can articulate a vision of Republicanism that is more welcoming, less angry and more responsible than the version on display at the moment.” But that’s what Jon Huntsman (R-Utah) is trying to do. Now, if he could only catch fire.