It’s a question that a lot of Republicans will be asking (or avoiding) in the coming months. Since President Obama took office in January, his approval ratings have remained astronomically high compared to his predecessor and the Republican members of Congress, while several prominent figures on the right have taken a beating. First was the admission of an affair by Nevada Senator John Ensign, then came the bizarre case of South Carolina Governor Mark Sanford, and just this past Friday, news of Sarah Palin’s resignation as governor of Alaska have left the once-vibrant field of possible 2012 candidates much thinner.
Palin of course has not ruled out a run for the presidency, but resigning from an elected position a full three years ahead of the 2012 election could hardly be considered a shrewd political move. And NBC’s Andrea Mitchell has reported that sources close to Palin say that her political career is over, less than one year after it really began.
Sanford was also considered a possible candidate for the next election, but a bizarre series of events involving his disappearance, the Appalachian Trail, a rendezvous with an Argentinean mistress in Buenos Aires and the subsequent unanswered questions that surround the whole episode has left his career in shambles.
Other candidates include former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney, who finished the 2008 Republican primary in third place, Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal, former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich and 2008 candidate and former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee.
But of those four candidates, only Jindal would be a break from the old school GOP that has lost 54 seats in the House of Representatives and 15 in the Senate since 2006. And if the elections in 2006 and 2008 have taught us anything, it’s that looking backwards doesn’t win you elections.
There are a whole host of other potential nominees who have yet to step forward, and they certainly have plenty of time to do so. But if the Republican Party wants to remain a truly national party capable of winning elections in all 50 states (Democrats have at least one Congressperson in every state but Wyoming, Republicans will have none in all of New England when Judd Gregg retires next term), they need to stop putting their worst feet forward.