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Morning Jay: A Formidable Republican Field

6:00 AM, May 25, 2011 • By JAY COST
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4. No bloodbath. I've been pointing out for a while that it's unlikely that the GOP will have to go through the kind of war that nearly destroyed the Democrats in 2008 -- in large part because the Republican party is much more homogenous. If this is the final field (and it might not be), the chances of an extended and bloody primary fight are now even smaller. In fact, there is a growing chance that the nominee could be set by mid- or even early February. The three top candidates are very similar to each other in terms of their background and the nature of their appeal, being as they all are center-right governors who plan to emphasize their abilities to get things done. There's really no need for an extended primary season to see which one is the preferred candidate. 

In conclusion, let me say this. On paper, it would be hard to come up with a GOP field that looks as electable as this one does. Here are three results-oriented, center-right governors who have out-performed a generic Republican at one point or another. Two of them won elections in blue states and the third had enough of a reputation to be named ambassador to China, now the second largest economy in the world.

Sure, they don't have the pizzazz that Obama had in 2008, but so what? The election next year is not going to be won or lost based on which candidate is more exciting or inspiring. Instead, it's going to be determined by the public's judgment as to whether Obama deserves another term, or whether the GOP alternative is the better bet. In these highly uncertain times, I think Republicans should actually prefer a candidate who strikes the middle of the electorate as a sober, capable defender of the national interest -- rather than one who drums up intense affection from one side (and intense dislike from the other). Let Obama have the legions of weepy sycophants chanting his name at every campaign stop he makes. The GOP doesn't need that kind of candidate to win. It can win in 2012 the same way Nixon did in 1968 and 1972 -- by appealing to that "silent majority" that doesn't attend political rallies and doesn't get excited by politicians making over-the-top promises, but that just wants somebody who is up to the job. 

Over the next eight months, the task of Republicans everywhere will be to see which one of these candidates works not just on paper but on the actual campaign trail, which one looks to be the most promising manager of the legislative process, and which one will make for the best caretaker of the Grand Old Party over the next four years. President Obama and the Democrats should be worried about these contenders, and they should be doubly concerned by the fact that Republican voters often choose the pick of the litter.

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