Ryan Lizza is right that Bush’s crappy presidency contributed to the weak field of candidates that we see today:

“A successful Presidency can produce a new crop of future Presidential candidates for the party that controls the White House. The vice president and cabinet officials, as well as governors and senators elected over the course of the administration, are historically major sources for a party’s next round of candidates. The Bush years had the opposite effect. It was unthinkable that his vice president would run for higher office and much of his cabinet left Washington tainted by the President’s unpopularity. Moreover, Bush helped sink his party in the 2006 and 2008 elections, thus depleting the ranks of potential Republican candidates for 2012.”

But, the problem is a bit deeper. It’s hard to come up with a Republican who would make a plausible president and who, at the same time, could actually win the nomination. People talk about some of the less insane governors, like Bobby Jindal, Mitch Daniels, and Chris Christie. Maybe someone telegenic and non-threatening like Sen. John Thune could make a run, although he wouldn’t necessarily win the love of the Republican base. If you’re honest, the cupboard is pretty bare. The biggest problem is that the candidates have so little room to maneuver on the issues. It’s like they all have to learn the Rush Limbaugh catechism and they can’t deviate from it. In other words, it’s just packaging. All the candidates are going to make the same argument and do largely the same things in office. Maybe this is increasing Ron Paul’s appeal. At root, this is still the party of Tom DeLay. It is built to plunder. It rejects empathy. And it is giant reservoir for hate.

It’s not capable of providing us with a hopeful, optimistic, inclusive vision of the future. Ronald Reagan would be a RINO in today’s party, treated no better than Jon Huntsman. A lot of this is the legacy of Bush, but it has been building for much longer than that.

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