The conventional wisdom — that the GOP 2012 field falls short of someone able to take back the White House — hearkens back to the days when Democrats begged the GOP to nominate a former actor. What passes for conventional wisdom these days, says President Obama, despite a failed stimulus, an unpopular health overhaul and lackluster and apologetic leadership abroad, just may lead to his re-election if for no other reason that the GOP has fielded no candidate of sufficient stature or ability to challenge him.
Of course, this could be a combination of Democrats whistling past what could be their political graveyard in 2012 and squeamish Republicans still in awe of the man who glibly rode a populist wave into the White House.
Liberal columnist Eugene Robinson says: "Republicans are assembling what looks like a remarkably weak field of candidates for the 2012 election — an odd assortment of the uninspiring and the unelectable." Really.
We think the GOP field is quite strong and that even the least of the possible candidates has more experience than a former community organizer who became Illinois state senator, then a half-term U.S. senator who spent most of his time running for president.
The biggest thing the GOP contenders demonstrate is that, unlike the incumbent, they have a clue about what's going on in the country and world and what they intend to do about it. Many are or have been governors and have balanced budgets and signed paychecks rather than just make speeches.
Obama was a strong candidate, but we've seen that strong candidates can produce weak presidents. The one we were waiting for rivals our worst president, Jimmy Carter. Now he has a record he must defend. No more "hope and change" rhetorical flourishes read from a teleprompter. We've been there and done that.
Potential candidates include former House Speaker Newt Gingrich and Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels, both of whom know a little about balancing budgets and can more than hold their own in debates with the president.
We have Sarah Palin, who knows more about producing energy than all the Energy Department's 100,000 employees laid end to end. Texas Gov. Rick Perry knows how to run a state well with lower taxes and less regulation and has a clue about how to protect our borders. And Mitt Romney and Herman Cain have more business experience between them (or even by themselves) than Obama's entire Cabinet.
New on the scene are Govs. Chris Christie of New Jersey and Scott Walker of Wisconsin, who demonstrate politicians can keep their promises and have the fortitude to deal with unions and those who ride the wagon rather than pull it.
Throw into the ring the possible hats of Tea Party favorites Michele Bachmann and Marco Rubio, former Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty and even possibly Gen. David Petraeus, who knows how to win a war or two, and you realize the GOP in fact has an embarrassment of riches on its hands.
A weak field? We can't imagine any of them bowing to a foreign leader or public-sector unions. And we remember 1980 when Democrats couldn't wait to run against Ronald Wilson Reagan, whom they dismissed as a likable but unelectable former actor.
Instead of agonizing over who can be elected, Republicans need to realize one of their own, perhaps even a name not now being considered, must be elected. Maybe none of these candidates is the next Reagan, but what's clear is that this nation cannot afford four more years of the second Jimmy Carter.