It’s not inconceivable that the Republican presidential field could be Gingrich, Romney, and Pawlenty, with Huntsman and Santorum in the second tier (and Johnson and Cain farther back). The odds are that Daniels won’t run — he said on the NewsHour on Friday that “there are a lot of concerns that are very, very personal and family-oriented” for perhaps not doing it, and compared running to throwing “yourself off that cliff.” I wouldn’t be shocked if Barbour pulls up short; he hasn’t had a great two weeks since he’s been more out there. I’m guessing Huckabee doesn’t run, although that’s only a guess, and Palin also might sit it out, but who knows? After all the build up about a wide-open, crowded Republican race, a short field would be quite the let-down.
A “short field” as Rich calls it I think would be a symbol of three things: First, running for president is grueling, and it seems to be getting more grueling each cycle. If there’s one thing I learned from reading Game Change, it’s that a race for president is an exhausting, personally destructive process.
Second, savvy politicians realize that they’d endure that process against an incumbent president, and incumbent presidents do not frequently lose. Yes, Obama looks vulnerable, but his poll numbers are still high enough to make any race a challenge, and he still has all the advantages of the presidency. Beating Obama is no sure thing.
Finally, we might also surmise that at least some of the folks bowing out have tested the fundraising waters at least a bit and have perhaps realized that there wasn’t a groundswell of support for them amongst conservative donors. And without money, it’s tough — if not impossible — to win.