Today's USA Today/Gallup poll shows the GOP with lower party favor than it has had with voters since before Watergate (i.e. people like the party less than during Nixon's resignation.)
The most recognized figures "leading" the party are: Limbaugh, former VP Dick Cheney, Newt Gingrich, who has not held office for over a decade and left in an ethics scandal, and John McCain, who has barely opened his mouth since losing the election. RNC Chair Michael Steele is only viewed as a party leader by 1%.
So now that we've listed the people that have been on the talk shows since the election, let's dig deeper. Where are the other voices of the GOP. Do they exist?
Yes. Any Republican who wants a political future is waiting this out. Let the unelected wing of the party fight the food fight over Sotomayor, the Budget, the economy and the two wars. This is the best strategy for any Republican who wants to be president or not get knocked down by the Limbaugh-oso. It is not the most responsible or active strategy, and not the one that helps re-frame the policy debate at a pivotal time for the country, but it is the safest path.
Pawlenty is putting a toe in the water. Palin is finding the water too cold. But wait till the Democrats make a mistake or two and the real Republican bench will appear. Just like last decade when the Democrats took time to shake out the short list, that is happening to lower level politicians around the country in the GOP. You'll know their names when the unelected wing goes too far (soon) or the Democrats make a few strategic mistakes in a row (time line unclear -- that's the beauty of news) OR Republicans see an opportunity to make 2010 competitive.