For many, many weeks, we've been told the same old story: no matter who joins the GOP field, no matter how many different varieties of candidate there are on offer, it's never been good enough for anyone.
This was the story in April, in May, in June, and in August. (We're guessing it was the same way in July, while we were on vacation.) "The field of candidates suck, send us someone new, and, no, Tim Pawlenty, we're not interested."
Mostly, voters were paying attention to the pundits, and the pundits had arranged the field into three piles of undesirables: fringies that no one should pay attention to, the unelectable and "people named Mitt Romney." Had some sort of savior candidate jumped into the race this week, you can imagine the frantic headlines: "Paul Ryan Shakes Up The Field Like An Earthquake!" Or, "Chris Christie Enters Race Like A Hurricane!" That the political press would gravitate toward metaphors reflecting the disasters du jour would be a matter of little notice.
But a funny thing started to happen this week. As the possibilities of future entrants diminished, and as the GOP base and conservative-leaning independent voters started to get more and more personally engaged with the race, the view of the field from street level changed: "An Associated Press-GfK poll released Friday found that two-thirds of Republicans and GOP-leaning independents are pleased with the party's presidential field, compared with just half in June." Could it be that the weak field was just a media contrivance? Is it possible that all the real pissing and moaning over the need for a Jeb Bush or a Marco Rubio in the mix was just an obsession of elite, establishment pundits?
Yes, and yes.
Anyway, here's where this story is going. Pretty soon, the settled field will be campaigning against each other. Voters will pick sides, become invested. A few straggling pundits will keep moaning, but pretty soon, they'll all come around to the consensus that the clear frontrunners are strong candidates. Come June of next year, no one will remember that anyone thought the field was weak. Unless, of course, the eventual nominee loses the election. Then, every Republican Party bigwig, in an effort to explain away their own failings, or the failure of the policies they advocated, will say, "Oh, well, let's remember, it was a pretty weak field."
And that's the Story Of The Weak 2012 Field, decoded for you.
What else happened in the week that brought America to the brink of a George Pataki candidacy? Rick Perry decided that the book he wrote and has been touting all year had to disappear. Depending on your point of view, Mitt Romney became either excitingly emotional or rattled under the stress of running, at a town hall meeting. Ron Paul finally got some coverage -- not all of it was good. Jon Huntsman tried to distinguish himself as the Jon Huntmaniest candidate in the race. Michele Bachmann was declared over, Barack Obama's polls continued to take on water, Herman Cain went to the Holy Land, Fred Karger got some access, and Buddy Roemer's campaign manager? That dude just went OFF. Learn the details on all of this and more by entering the Speculatron for the week of August 26, 2011.