The Republicans' confused assortment of announced presidential candidates-- as well as unannounced candidates and distant possibilities of candidates-- seems to be clarifying somewhat. The withdrawal of Donald Trump and Mike Huckabee, as well as the withdrawal of much of Newt Gingrich's staff, seems like a much-needed weeding-out process.
Although Mitt Romney has been leading in the polls, his lead over other potential rivals has been slim. Being a "front-runner" this far ahead of next year's nominating convention would not mean much, even if Governor Romney's lead and his support were much bigger than they are.
The albatross around Romney's neck is the RomneyCare medical plan that he signed into law in Massachusetts. His refusal to repudiate RomneyCare means that, as a presidential candidate, he would forfeit one of the strongest argument against Barack Obama, who has ObamaCare as his albatross.
Nor is an about-face on RomneyCare a viable option for Mitt Romney. He has already done too many other about-faces for the voters to be likely to trust him after another. He has painted himself into a corner.
Articulate Newt Gingrich might be the best Republican to go toe-to-toe with Obama in presidential debates-- and a lack of effective articulation has been the Republicans' big weakness for years. Try to name a Republican renowned for his articulation, besides Ronald Reagan, Theodore Roosevelt and Abraham Lincoln.
While Newt Gingrich is not at that level, he is definitely a cut above most Republican candidates in talking. He also represents a cherished moment in Republican history, when they took the House of Representatives for the first time in 40 years, as a result of Gingrich's "contract with America" election strategy.
But that was back in the 1990s, and many younger voters today may have no idea what that was all about. Worse yet, former Speaker Gingrich has shown too many signs of opportunism -- including his wholly unnecessary swipe at Republican Congressman Paul Ryan's attempt to bring some fiscal sanity to Washington-- to be trusted.
His own staff should know him better than the rest of us. Their recent resignations should mark the end of a very promising career that did not live up to all its promises. Even so, Gingrich performed a real service to the country as Speaker of the House of Representatives, which brought federal spending under control and produced what the media chose to call "the Clinton surplus."