Well, here comes the 2012 Republican primary battle… and there it goes. Not since the season finale of The Killing has so much buildup come to so much nothing.
It’s not like we didn’t see this coming. No matter how many entertaining candidates-for-their-own-CNN-show were trotted out, it wasn’t like they were actually going to be President. Since Herbert Hoover became President in 1929 (he’d never been elected to anything, serving as Secretary of Commerce), every Presidential nominee (except sacrificial lamb Wendell Willkie in 1940) has been 1.) a Governor, 2.) a Senator, 3.) a Vice-President, or 4.) a WWII-winning General. That’s it.
Heading into the Republican primary season, the frontrunner was 2008 runner-up Mitt Romney, who followed the John Edwards game plan of turning one term in office and good hair into a permanent campaign. There were three little-known, boring-as-hell former Governors lurking… Jon Huntsman, Tim Pawlenty, and Gary Johnson. With Ron Paul, there was no room for Johnson’s libertarianism; with Romney, there was no room for Huntsman’s Mormon businessman schtick; and Pawlenty let himself get bullied out by fellow Minnesotan Michelle Bachmann, a decision that should drive him to drink daily at this point. The only former Senator in the race, Rick Santorum, 1.) was beaten by 17 points in his last race, 2.) is batshit crazy, and 3.) is literally a synonym for ass juice.
That left three-plus-term Texas governor Rick Perry as the only chance for an interesting race. He had electoral success in a big state, distinct ideological differences from Romney, and a huge pile of money. His biggest problem was that he seemed too much, biographically, ideologically and smirking-wise, like George W. Bush. Perry decided to differentiate himself by proving himself to be dumber and crazier. Somehow, this didn’t resonate with voters.
The primary battle this most resembles is the Democrats in 1992, when the only “President on the stage” was Bill Clinton. The rest of the field was boring/crazy (Paul Tsongas/Jerry Brown), but there was a general sense of unease among Democratic voters about sending Clinton against the incumbent George H. W. Bush. Obviously, though, Clinton’s issues (womanizing, draft dodging) were slightly more exciting than Romney’s (flip-flopping, downsizing). At least Willard could sexually harass somebody for all of our sake.
So where does this snoozefest rank all-time?