Over the past 30 years, there has always been a clear front-runner for the next Republican presidential nomination, generally four years in advance of the election. Since Ronald Reagan in 1980, that candidate has gone on to win the nomination four years later.
Not this year. There is no obvious favorite who is well known to party leaders and the rank and file. Most of the best-known potential candidates have flaws that could make it difficult for them to win the nomination or the presidency.
Many insiders think the eventual GOP nominee in 2012 will be one of a number of aspirants currently unknown to the vast majority of Americans.
When Barack Obama was elected on Election Day 2008, there was no clear front-runner for the 2012 Republican presidential nomination. Now, two years before the next election – and just 15 months before the caucuses begin in Iowa – that remains the case.
Former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney may have the early edge because he finished second for the 2008 nomination. But he hardly is positioned as well as those who have won the GOP nominations since 1980.
You and I could take a walk through most any shopping mall in America these days, outside of Massachusetts, and have a great deal of difficulty finding people with a great deal of familiarity with Mr. Romney, much less what he stands for. A recent Gallup poll showed that more than a third of voters didn’t know enough about him to have an opinion, a high number for any front-runner.
Whoever emerges to battle for the nomination, next year’s primary campaign is shaping up to be different from past ones. A solid front-runner is still missing.