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Politics

In 2012 Race, What You See Is What You Get

It’s too late for any new candidate to make a serious White House bid.

The political rumor mill, otherwise known as the Internet, is abuzz with reports that the 2012 presidential race will undergo a seismic shift, perhaps on both sides. But don’t hold your breath waiting for surprise candidates to jump in.

On the Republican side, those who are unhappy or unexcited about the current crop of candidates continue to push for a new face to enter the race, unite the party, appeal to independents and send Barack Obama into early retirement.

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Two names are mentioned more often than any others: Rep. Paul Ryan of Wisconsin and former Gov. Jeb Bush of Florida. Both have said repeatedly that they aren’t running, but that hasn’t slowed those who want to see one of them join the fight for the GOP nomination.

It’s time for the wishful thinkers to accept that no means no. There comes a point where someone has to have an organization in place and a lot of money in the bank to make a serious run. Realistically, with the first primaries and caucuses five months away, we’ve probably already passed that point. Both men may end up running for president – but not in 2012.

Another faction is hoping that former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin rides to the rescue of the Republican Party. But her moment has passed. Even if she were to enter the race in September – and it seems she won’t – much of the energy and enthusiasm that went to her earlier in the process has been transferred to Rep. Michele Bachmann of Minnesota.

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So forget all the speculation about new candidates taking the field by storm. The GOP nominee will come from among these three: former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, Bachmann and Texas Gov. Rick Perry. But the process may take a while to play out. At this stage, it’s very easy to imagine Bachmann winning the Iowa caucuses, Romney taking the New Hampshire primary and Perry coming out on top in South Carolina, setting the stage for a long campaign. (As a moderate running against two others who would split the conservative vote, Romney would appear to have the upper hand. But it’s early.)

Forget, too, about polls. Or at least don’t take the results so seriously at this point. If polls far in advance of voting were accurate measures of the ultimate outcome, this column would be about the reelection prospects of President Hillary Clinton or President Rudolph Giuliani. Or maybe it would be about how wide open the 2012 race is as President Howard Dean finishes his second term in the White House.

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On the Democratic side, there are still those who see Obama pulling the plug on his campaign and letting Hillary Clinton take over as the Democratic candidate. Mind you, these are Democrats saying this. They like to cite 1968, when President Lyndon Johnson stunned the nation by pulling out of the race.

But this isn’t 1968, when the Vietnam War, a clash of cultures, riots and assassinations left the country far more polarized than it is today. Barack Obama is no LBJ. And there is no one in the Democratic Party with political heft who is willing to challenge the incumbent the way Robert Kennedy and Eugene McCarthy were then.

Obama is in the race to stay. He’ll win the Democratic nomination without a major fight and without having to dip into his substantial campaign fund.

A year from November, he’ll run against Romney or Perry or Bachmann, and the voters will have their say.

And then the rumors will start all over again.

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