Wall Street Journal
By Peggy Noonan
December 30, 2011
So the first third of the Republican presidential race is ending. The first third is the introduction: “This is who I am, this is what I want to do, this is why you want to choose me.”
The campaign is announced, organized, and goes forward in key early states.
The second phase is the long slog through the primary states to the convention next August in Tampa, Fla. The third and final is the election proper, in the autumn of 2012.
The first phase was clouded by an overlay of frustration and dissatisfaction: The best weren’t in the game. Mitch Daniels, Paul Ryan, John Thune, Haley Barbour, none of them reporting for duty. But in the past few weeks another mood has begun to dig in: You fight with the army you have. You pick from the possible candidates. You make a choice and back him hard.
Part of this is simple realism. Time is passing, and the contenders have been at least initially inspected. Every four years the potential nominees on either side look smaller than the sitting president who, whether or not you like him, is the president. You’re used to him. He’s on TV. They play Hail to the Chief when he walks in. The office is big and imparts bigness.
But less so this year than past years. There’s a lot of 1980 in the 2012 presidential election, which doesn’t mean it will end the same way, but still. The incumbent looks smaller than previous sitting presidents, as did Jimmy Carter. His efforts in the Oval Office have not been generally understood as successful. There’s a broad sense it hasn’t worked. And Democrats don’t like him, as they didn’t Jimmy Carter.