Donald Trump’s traveling circus is overshadowing the rest of the Republican presidential field, and some GOP operatives are worried. Fergus Cullen, a former chair of the New Hampshire Republican Party summed up this sentiment when he told the New York Times, “The race needs more responsible adults who can actually do the job.”
If you are one of those who actually believe that Trump is the current GOP frontrunner, you may agree with Cullen. If the field is so lackluster that a buffoon like Trump can vault to the top of the polls, then maybe a whole new roster of sober presidential wannabes is needed. But though the comments in same Times story from such pundits as Charles Krauthammer (who termed the field “split and weak”) and our own Peter Wehner (who lamented the “lack of fizz” that created a vacuum that the clownish Trump is filling) cannot be disputed, there is no need for Republicans to push the panic button.
First of all, the idea that Trump is likely to run and then triumph in next year’s primaries and caucuses is highly unlikely. One needn’t be a fan of the GOP establishment to note that the ease with which President Obama took Trump apart at last night’s White House Correspondent’s Dinner (where the Donald had neither the grace nor the presence of mind to laugh along with the jokes at his expense) is a precursor of things to come for the former bankrupt. Trump’s novelty act is already wearing thin.
Second, though the current list of declared candidates is not exactly awe-inspiring, when one adds in the names of those who are almost certain or most likely to run, there will be enough adults to choose from. Although liberal media outlets have sometimes treated the GOP race as coming down to a battle between the likes of Trump, Sarah Palin, Michele Bachmann and Rick Santorum, even without the addition of young stars like New Jersey Governor Chris Christie, Florida Senator Marco Rubio, and Wisconsin Congressman Paul Ryan (who has become the de facto ideological leader of the party whether or not he runs for president), Republicans already have plausible candidates. Candidates with experience operating as the chief executives of states such as Mitch Daniels, Tim Pawlenty, Jon Huntsman, Rick Perry, and Mitt Romney are all men who can be said to “do the job,” although it is unlikely that Republicans will pick someone who pushed a program that bears a resemblance to Obamacare as Romney did.
There is still plenty of time for any of the candidates, whether plausible presidents or not, to catch fire. With gas prices rising and the economy stagnating, Obama’s prospective opponents will have every opportunity to demonstrate their ability to inspire a Republican electorate whose distaste for the president and his fiscal policies is already at a fever pitch.
Right now none of the likely GOP nominees is electrifying anyone, but a year from now the survivor of the nominating process will already be apparent and even political kibitzers will understand that the outcome of the election will center on the state of the economy and whether Obama has avoided foreign policy disasters—not on the Republican standard-bearer’s ability to compete with a reality TV show star’s antics. At that point, the comic celebrity of Donald Trump and worries about the lack of “adults” in the race will be mere footnotes in the history of the 2012 race.