I'm still trying to digest Mitch Daniels' weekend announcement that he will not be running for president, which came as a huge shock.
Daniels was unusually well-positioned within the GOP, having a record and an identity capable of appealing to both Tea Party types and more conventional Republicans. He also had the unusual combination of being both an extremely effective executive and someone who was philosophically anchored in conservatism (it's a shame how many conservatives learn the anti-government catechism without ever dedicating much thought to how to run the government that's still left). In essence, I share Paul Rahe's gloominess, though I stop shy of assigning Daniels the level of personal culpability that Paul does (in fact, I respect Daniels for having what seems to be a genuine allegiance to something besides his own political future).
Regardless, Mitch is out, and my estimation of the field that is left is not a happy one. Absent a surge from Bachmann or Cain -- both of whom I think are capable of the feat, but neither of whom is likely to be able to translate it into the nomination -- we're essentially left with Huntsman, Pawlenty, or Romney. Out of that group, Huntsman is too moderate, Romney is too elastic, and Pawlenty is more acquittable than embraceable.
Those in the GOP fold desperate to make lemonade remind us that a similarly pruned field generated Bill Clinton for the Democrats in the 1992 election. All well and good, except for the fact that we don't have a Bill Clinton. The closest figure in terms of sheer talent is Newt Gingrich, and Newt's flashes of brilliance don't subsidize his pathologies on the scale that Clinton's did (it's an ugly reality to think that you're a less-disciplined version of our 42nd president).
I suppose the search for a white knight continues, but it seems to me likely to end in sorrow. Jeb Bush, who would have easily been the man to beat in 2008 or this time around, is consigned to the political wilderness because of the scarlet W. Marco Rubio and Paul Ryan seem genuinely deterred by the prospect of running so early in their careers. And Chris Christie, who is the most rational choice for redeemer, has so frequently pronounced himself unprepared to be president that he can't enter the race without being haunted by a year's worth of insistences that he is not equal to the nation's highest office.
My hope: that's there's an alternative not yet considered. My fear: that it's time to start proceeding to the exits in an orderly fashion. Please, members of the Ricochet family, give me reason to embrace the former and dismiss the latter.