Ramesh Ponnuru ends his piece on the possible Palin vs. Romney battle for the 2012 GOP presidential nomination (which appeared in the February 21st edition of National Review) with this warning:
If there are Republicans who would rather not see either Romney or Palin on the ticket, or just don't want to see a bloody primary battle between them, they had better unite behind another candidate. And given the speed with which the primaries are approaching--the Iowa straw poll is in August--they had better do it fast.
Stark words for those of us in the "none of the above" camp when pressed to make a choice between Palin and Romney. Palin is simply not electable and even if she were, I would still have doubts about her qualifications for the office. With the albatross of his health care plan in Massachusetts hanging around his neck, Romney would be a disaster for the Republican Party. All of the GOP's recent efforts to demonstrate that they are anything more than Democrats Lite would be for naught. No Romney, no way, now how.
But as Ponnuru notes, the clock is already ticking and those of with no horse yet in the race other than "anyone but Palin or Romney" will be forced to coalesce around one alternative candidate soon. At this point, no one in the field of likely or even potential Republicans candidates does much for me. T-Paw might make a fine president, but there's nothing to yet indicate that he'll be able to break through the single digit support he generates nationally. Mitch Daniels' almost obsessive insistence that social issues should not be part of the debate harkens back to Tom Emmer's similar stance in last year's Minnesota gubernatorial campaign and we all know how well that worked out for him. I lost most of whatever interest I had with Newt Gingrich as a potential contender when he started pandering to the farmers in Iowa by promising to support ethanol subsidies. Jeb Bush is eminently qualified for the job in all respects except his last name which I'm afraid would be a problem for much of the electorate. The other names that could inspire real interest--Christie, Jindahl, Rubio--are probably not ready to run yet in 2012.
Not exactly a field of strong horses to choose from. The reality is that whichever one emerges from the pack first will be the one that I end up supporting in hopes of avoiding having either Palin or Romney on the ticket.
Possible presidential contenders who aren't officially in the race are sort of like backup quarterbacks in the NFL. They look great warming up on the sidelines and maybe even can play well for a game or two of spot duty. But once they have a regular role, they almost always end up disappointing the fans. I remember hearing Rudy Giuliani speak in 2006 and thinking what a great candidate he would be in the 2008 primaries. Turns out he ran a presidential campaign about as effectively as Spergon Wynn ran an offense. Or speculating on Mark Sanford's prospects as a dark horse for the GOP nomination at some point in the future. Yikes.
So while I continue to hold out hope that a Reagan-like Republican candidate will come riding over the horizon and save the day, I'm beginning to come to grips with the need to settle soon for one of the acceptable options at hand in hopes of avoiding either a disastrous defeat or pyrrhic victory in 2012.