While a generic candidate might beat Obama if the election were held today, we know that, over the next year, Obama will mobilize and excite millions of leftist, liberal Americans. He has begun to fan the flames already.
In contrast, while Campaign Obama is building its ground game, the Republican field is anything but set.
The field of Republican candidates includes former Governor of Massachusetts Mitt Romney, former CEO of Godfather's Pizza Herman Cain, Texas Gov. Rick Perry, former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich (my father), Minnesota Rep. Michele Bachmann, Texas Rep. Ron Paul, former Congressman and former U.S. Sen. Rick Santorum of Pennsylvania and former Utah Gov. Jon Huntsman.
So far in their various campaigns for the Republican nomination, there have been many ups and downs: Gingrich fell rapidly after announcing but has picked up some steam; Bachmann surged, and then fell; Perry surged before he even announced and then rapidly spiraled to earth after announcing; Romney has moved up and down, but has not been able to make huge gains; Cain is surging but faces troubling questions from years ago; and pundits are already talking about the next candidate to surge.
So far, there have been nine debates, and there are eight more scheduled before the end of the year. These debates give voters the opportunity to see the candidates in action. In addition, campaigns are staffing up offices in the early states.
For the Republicans, the challenge is to offer American voters a flesh-and-blood candidate, not a generic one. As the field of Republican candidates narrows, some may be tempted to focus on electability rather than excitability. This is a temptation that Republicans should avoid.
To defeat Obama, the Republican nominee will need to inspire and fire up voters to get involved and make sure that, a year from now, we have a new president-elect and a reason for hope, since there will be change.