- - Tuesday, May 24, 2011


Understandably, Republicans are growing a wee bit nervous about the next election as they watch the parade of political pygmies they have left to choose from for their nomination.

So far, the brightest stars have ducked the big fight.

First was Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour, whose credentials as the polar opposite of President Obama cannot be challenged. He said he did not have the fire in the belly. For a politician, that only means he didn’t think he could win.

Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels said he really wanted to run and felt confident about his prospects. But, he said, his wife would not let him. Good to get that out of the way before it was too late.

Former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee grew up poor and fat. Now that he has slimmed down a little and is banking serious money, he’s not about to give it all up to save the Republic.

What is really terrifying to Republicans is not the giants who have fled from the field, but all the midgets who have stayed behind to strut and crow and flex their little muscles unimpressively.

That first GOP debate in South Carolina was a real doozie. It had all the awkwardness of a bad “American Idol” performance and the political heft of a teenage slumber party. You know you are in trouble when Rick Santorum is the likable one you would be most inclined to sit down with for a beer.

When former New Mexico Gov. Gary Johnson talked about the need to legalize pot, it was clear this is an issue of personal and pressing importance to him — like maybe he had just toked up backstage. Yes, this was during a Republican debate.

Not to belittle former Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty’s impressive resume, but really? Shouldn’t you at least be old enough to drive before running for president?

And no matter how much you may love Rep. Ron Paul of Texas, you are in a bad situation when he is by far the most electable guy on stage.

Most terrifying of all for Republicans are the titans who stayed away from that debate because they consider themselves too serious to be sullied by such company.

Yes, we are talking about political rejects Mitt Romney and Newt Gingrich.

Do you really think that a party in the grips of a rebirth of conservatism is going to get behind a waffler like Mr. Romney who invented Obamacare long before anyone had even heard of Barack Obama?

Or an old Washington retread like Mr. Gingrich? He may be one smart professor, but it is hard to forget the image of him in charge of this place 15 years ago and in full tantrum sitting in the back of Air Force One furiously nibbling on peanuts.

And now comes Jon Huntsman Jr., a desperate inspiration from inside the Beltway who has exhibited no appeal whatsoever to, uh, what do we call those annoying people? Ah … voters!

But there is a sliver of hope for Republicans. Remember 1992, when President George H.W. Bush was soaring in the polls after a foreign policy victory? So all the Democratic bigs stood down, leaving Democrats with their fourth string on the field?

And into that vacuum stepped a governor from Arkansas nobody had ever heard of before.

Charles Hurt’s column appears Wednesdays. He can be reached at charleshurt@live.com.

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