The events of the last several weeks have provided some degree of clarity to the emerging Republican presidential field. Mike Huckabee, Mitch Daniels, and -- yes -- Donald Trump will not run. Tim Pawlenty, Herman Cain, Newt Gingrich, and Ron Paul will. Several other contenders are likely to jump in as well, including Mitt Romney, Michele Bachmann, and Rick Santorum. But does a sense of finality or stability accompany this increased clarity? A spirited debate over that very question is underway among Republican officials and conservative commentators. More than a few voices now assert that the field is locked in at this point. Among them is respected Republican strategist, former RNC Chairman, and former Bush advisor Ed Gillespie...
Some high-powered Republicans are starting to say it is, with former RNC Chair Ed Gillespie predicting: “The field is largely now settled, and Republican activists and donors will begin increasingly choosing between those who are declared.”
...Radio talk show host and columnist Hugh Hewitt...
The reason various candidates are taking a pass this year is that the top two contenders --Romney and Pawlenty-- have essentially locked up the campaign talent and the money commitments necessary to mount a traditional campaign, and that insurgent candidates are already in the hunt in the form of Bachmann, Gingrich and Santorum. Jon Huntsman also presents himself as an unusual sort of candidate taking even more space from the idea of a later entrant.
Though the circle of MSMers keep saying the GOP longs for another candidate, that is a Manhattan-Beltway media elite meme. The Republicans I know have picked candidates and begun raising money for their choices. They are quite satisfied with the field, except for Sarah Palin's many fans, and many of them are content with Michele Bachmann as a substitute.
...and a collection of "GOP insiders:"
High-level Republican leaders tell POLITICO that they now believe the top tier of the presidential field is set, and that no major donors or operatives will remain on the sidelines hoping a dream candidate will make a last-minute entry.
These leaders calculate that they are better off to accept the Mitch Daniels-less field as it is and not continue to waffle, letting President Barack Obama continue to build strength while the GOP dawdles.