So the consensus—reflected, for example, in Larry Sabato’s sensible CRYSTAL BALL—is that there are two top-tier Republican presidential candidates. They’re mentioned above.

The takeaway I get when reading this or that analysis is the difficulty of any other candidate being able to sustain the primary course. Last time we saw clearly why it’s so tough for outsiders. Only a prodigy could get through “the process.” That’s why the Republicans have literally NEVER nominated an outsider since the present system kicked in in 1972.

Gov. Walker of Wisconsin is too boring. Bobby Jindal is tanking in LA—and remains too boring. Santorum was close to a semi-prodigy last time, but, as Sara has pointed out in the thread, he has too much religious baggage and unfashionable foreign policy views. He also, as Pete points out, has an outmoded view of our economic challenges. Cruz and Rubio have shown they’re not ready. Well, Rubio can’t be counted out as of now, but he’s not seasoned enough not to screw up definitively before 2016. Cruz is hard to like as a guy, whereas Rubio is easy to like but tough to trust.

Most of the establishment (meaning conservative foundation) Republicans I know seem to prefer either Ryan or Jeb Bush. That might be because they’d actually be good presidents. I leave it to you to explain to me how they would be effective candidates in Republican primaries.

I could go on and list the flaws—beginning with the evilthinking and evildoing—of Christie and Paul. But let’s face it: They’re tougher than the rest and know what they’re doing. As of now, I actually think Rand is the favorite. He’s my least favorite of all the names listed above. He certainly, as Pete keeps explaining, has no message for the middle class.

I really LIKE Christie but have plenty of reason to distrust him. I’m not saying he’s much like Tony Soprano; he’s not a sociopath and has a decent respect for the rule of law. But he is the candidate most like Tony, and I say that with a mixture of hope and fear. There’s a lot to be said for the Republicans nominating a Jersey boy, because I really think that the right candidate could bring most Springsteen fans—not to mention most Frank Valli fans—back to us.

I know I’m intruding into Pete’s and Jim’s territory here, and I’m really trying to draw them and all of you into the discussion.

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