I like 1988 (the year the first President Bush defeated Democrat Michael Dukakis) as a metaphor for the Republicans’ stature problem. That year, the Democratic hopefuls came to be known as “the seven dwarfs.” This wasn’t fair to them, and it may not be fair to this year’s Republican field, whatever its eventual size. But the dwarf line speaks to an image deficit shared by both fields.

Of the current GOP bunch, former Minnesota governor Tim Pawlenty is the Dukakis of 2012. I say this as someone who is fond of Dukakis and believes he was an excellent governor of Massachusetts. He just wasn’t a great presidential candidate. The strength Pawlenty and Dukakis share is the absence of any glaring shortcomings. Dukakis was the remainder candidate, the guy most likely to be left standing. That looks like Pawlenty’s role this year. But it’s also hard to see Pawlenty escaping Dukakis’s eventual fate in a general election.