A year ago Barack Obama was prime for the picking. The economy was in the tank and as James Carville proposed when Bill Clinton ran for President in 1992, "it's the economy, stupid" because people always vote their pocketbook. Combine the economy with all the character assassination charges being leveled at Obama by every right-wing critic on television and radio and it looked like he was a loser for sure in 2012.
But a funny thing happened on the way to the election. Republicans like Chris Christie and Jeb Bush who would have won the nomination and, most likely, the general election in a walk decided not to run and those who did have turned out to be less than stellar candidates. Mitt Romney, the accepted front-runner who's been running for President for six years in a row can't capture the conservative base of his party. The media assumed he would be the nominee after his significant win in the Florida primary but then he lost to Rick Santorum in the three contests held this past week. Santorum has now won four primaries, Romney three and Newt Gingrich one.
Santorum has emerged as the darling of the Religious Right of the party but their political influence has declined significantly since its hey-day in the '80s and '90s. Gingrich has never had a chance anywhere but in the southern states and the reasons are far too many to mention in a column but one big one is his desire to colonize the moon. Ron Paul is much more Libertarian than Republican and has yet to win a primary.
The Republicans decided this year that the best way to select a candidate was through a long series of debates and it has been the debates themselves that has cast doubt on the abilities of any of the candidates instead of crowning a contender the way they were supposed to. Remember that Rick Perry, the governor of Texas, burst onto the scene in a big way and for a couple of weeks, was thought to be the one the Republicans needed to defeat Obama. But because of terrible debate performances, his numbers dropped like a rock and he eventually left the race. Now the latest polling amazingly shows him trailing Obama in popularity in his home state.
Michelle Bachmann won the Iowa straw poll back in late summer and then fared so poorly in the caucus in the very same state a few months later that she dropped out too.
And in the midst of all this shoot-yourself-in-the-foot trouble the Republican candidates have done to themselves, the economy is now improving just at the right time for Obama. The jobless rate is the lowest it's been except for one month since he took office and the stock market continues to rally.
Most people and this includes a lot of Republicans, have heard so much character assassination of the president that it's now bouncing off their skins instead of penetrating and some are just flat out tired of hearing it, preferring their candidates to run on the issues facing the country instead of the same old tired rhetoric the Party has been using against Obama ever since he threw his hat into the ring to run for President the first time.
A couple of years ago, conventional wisdom suggested that the Republicans could defeat Obama with practically anybody they chose to run.
Today that doesn't seem to be nearly as good a bet as it seemed back then.