The bigger question lies on the right side of the aisle. Who will be able to challenge Obama? Despite the president's recent challenges, many people (especially in urban areas) will still gladly vote for him if he is on the ticket--especially if the Republican on the other side is uninspiring, extreme, or out of touch. I'm going to go through a bunch of early contenders and explain why each of them will have trouble handling Obama--especially if the 2008 campaign crew is anywhere close to the scene.
- Former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin: Oh, where to begin? We fell in love with her so quickly, but it also became clear quickly that a) her relative inexperience was indeed a problem, and b) the mainstream media were eating her alive. Now, despite her incredible popularity among the Tea Party-types (see Bristol's surprise DWTS run), not much has changed since '08; in fact, her standing may have only worsened among independents (her resigning the governorship before the end of her first term will surely come back to bite her in any general election campaign). I think she could be a much greater asset to the conservative cause if she remains where she is: running her PAC, attending tea parties, and showing up on Fox News on a regular basis, as opposed to being in elective office.
- Former Speaker Newt Gingrich: Take everything I just said about Palin and triple it. I can't even imagine where the far right is coming from on this one. It's as if they have totally forgotten about how he started dating his current (and third) wife, Callista, while he was still married to his second wife and, oh yeah, in the middle of the Lewinsky scandal, while he was getting all sanctimonious about President Clinton's lack of fidelity. Again, Gingrich is a great idea factory, and whoever wins the nomination should probably hire him as an advisor. But as a presidential candidate? No, no, and no.
- Former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee: Speaking of No, no, and no. Holy @#$%, have you ever heard this guy talk economics? Pastor Huckabee is so far to the right on Christian issues that he expects the government to force people to give charity. Yes, as in redistribution of the wealth. As in not remotely fiscally conservative, right after an election when the American people declared emphatically that the government needs to stay out of our pockets. From 1996 to 2004, Arkansas' budget increased by 65%, with Huckabee's progressive tax policies funding much of the growth. And let's not forget the compassionate Christian pardoning/clemency/etc. of Wayne Dumond, Maurice Clemmons, and Eugene Fields. The Democrats have been waiting for nearly a quarter century to take revenge for Willy Horton.
- Former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney: From an economic standpoint, I would have loved to support Romney in 2008 (would have beat the heck out of McCain, at any rate), but there were several reasons (legitimate or otherwise) he didn't win the nomination then, and none of those reasons have gone away. His well-documented flip-flop on abortion rights and his implementation of socialized healthcare in Massachusetts, in particular, are problems that cannot be explained away easily to the base of the GOP. In addition, as unfair as it may be, the fact that he is a Mormon will create a huge problem among voters on the Christian Right (i.e., Huckabee's base).
- Former New York Mayor Rudy Guliani: Speaking of 2008 retreads whose problems aren't going away, no one who has the abortion, guns, and personal record of Rudy will ever win Iowa or New Hampshire. Sorry. He has my vote for VP or Attorney General, though.
- New Jersey Governor Chris Christie: Notice that Christie is the only one on this list not to be preceded by the word "former"? He actually has a current job. Which, unfortunately, he has been in for less than a year. Maybe in 2016 or 2020.
- The rest of the pack: Bobby Jindal? Mike Pence? Tim Pawlenty? Mitch Daniels, Haley Barbour, or Jim DeMint? Basically, everyone who has an elected office and has appeared on Fox News in the last two years is being looked at as a possible GOP contender.
And herein lies the root of the problem. There is obviously still a while to go until the 2012 primaries begin, but that doesn't mean that the problems I've outlined here aren't real. Hopefully, the nice people at the RNC can stop tearing each other to pieces and focus on the real issues here--otherwise Obama will have a cakewalk back into the White House in 2012.