Not in 2012. The debate last night showed there’s still room for national-caliber candidates, which is probably why Ambassador Huntsman is set to jump in. While Huntsman comes as no surprise to pundits, he needs the national exposure now if he’s to have name recognition to run for 2016.
And that’s what last night was all about, because unseating an incumbent President in a bid for a second term is harder than it may seem. Just look at the previous administration.
All but two of last night’s debaters appear to be running on pure-PR agendas, although Bachmann and Romney both stand some chance of being the person chosen to “take one for the team.” I know Ron Paul’s supporters don’t want to hear that; but Obama’s not going anywhere, and so the GOP embarks on the hunt for an eloquent champion to make the quixotic bid to at least get their message out and some of their voters to the polls as they try to consolidate the gains made during the mid-term (while doubtless praying he does something as foolish as Vitter, Sanford, Wiener, Craig, and their ilk in the interim. Hey, it could happen.)
The mid-terms went, as mid-terms often do, to the minority party. Far from signalling momentum, though, they over-emboldened some GOP strategists, who now appear to have over-reached. The budget fight in MN, for instance, has galvanized public opinion already restive from the anti-middle-class actions of the new governor in neighboring Wisconsin, and threw a harsh spotlight on Pawlenty‘s “no new taxes” fiasco and his sleight-of-hand budget shift that the state GOP now won’t own up to.
Obama’s approval rating is climbing, the middle class is hurting, and the GOP’s promised laser-focus on jobs has proven to be rhetoric as empty as their attacks on Obama’s tweaks on the stimulus they were for before they were against. All the GOP can hope for is that 2012 voters have short memories – they sure weren’t wowing potential converts with that motley softball exhibition last night.