The Republican field is better than you think

The 2012 presidential race has barely begun, but it is already time to retire one of its cliches: the much-repeated claim that “the Republican field is weak.” Liberals say it with a smirk, because they think it will guarantee President Barack Obama’s re-election. Conservatives say it while begging someone else to enter the race and rescue them. …

But the Republican field isn’t weak. The three people most likely to win the Republican nomination — Mitt Romney, Tim Pawlenty and Jon Huntsman, according to Intrade.com — have all been governors. Two of them were governors of states that Obama carried in 2008. By contrast, the top three candidates for the Democratic nomination last time around (Obama, Hillary Clinton and John Edwards) had a combined zero days of executive experience. This time, even some long-shot Republican candidates have stronger resumes than that: Libertarian gadfly Gary Johnson, for example, was a two-term governor of New Mexico. …

Obama may well win re-election in 2012. Black and Hispanic voters will surely turn out in greater numbers than in the 2010 midterms. The economy could improve. The politics of entitlement reform probably still favors the Democrats. But if Obama does win, it won’t be because the Republicans didn’t field any strong opponents.