With less than 18 months to go before the 2012 presidential election, the GOP is facing its most up-for-grabs race for the nomination in 47 years, observers said.
Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour, who led the party in the 1990s, yesterday told CBS’ “Face the Nation” that the ultimate pick may have to come from “Nowheresville” – as Barack Obama did in 2008.
Even last week, businessmen from Iowa – which is a key testing ground for candidates – flew to New Jersey to join the chorus courting Gov. Chris Christie to run. He declined.
“Is there a magic bullet candidate? I don’t think so,” said Kyle Kondik, an analyst with the University of Virginia’s Center for Politics. “I don’t think (the GOP is) coalescing around anyone in this field at this point.”
Neither are likely GOP voters. A May 26 Gallup poll showed that 22 percent are undecided among the potential candidates. Mitt Romney came in second with 17 percent, but Kondik said he’s a “weak frontrunner.”
In 1992, the Democrats had a lackluster roster, and it wasn’t until a few months before the election when the party rallied around two-term President Bill Clinton.
The Republicans, however, haven’t had such an apparently anemic slate since 1964, when Barry Goldwater won the nomination, but lost the general election.
“This is kind of an odd year because historically for the Republicans, they’ve had an obvious frontrunner – as with John McCain in 2008,” said Kondik.
Christina Greer, a political science professor at Fordham University, said “strategic Republicans” already know that President Barack Obama will be a formidable opponent because “it’s very hard to unseat a sitting president.”
Obama, however, is not a sure-fire winner if the economy and unemployment don’t turn around or if we’re still mired in two wars by Election Day, experts said.
“Re-elections are a referendum on the president, and the Republicans need to find a candidate who can capitalize on the president’s failures,” Kondik said.