Why the GOP field is so weak

James Carville says he thinks he can explain why the GOP field of candidates for president is the weakest in memory.

Story highlights

  • James Carville says the GOP field for president is very weak and he thinks he knows why
  • He says economics says that if a thing has value, people want it, but few want this job
  • He says good candidates shied away because they couldn't take low level of discourse
  • Carville: GOP getting candidates that match intellectual composition of many in the party

As usual, Professor Paul Krugman's piece in the Monday morning New York Times is causing a great deal of chatter among the political types. Krugman points out just how inept the Republican field is. In some cases he takes a scalpel (and in others a machete) to surely the weakest field of presidential aspirants any party has offered in modern American history (see my earlier CNN column comparing this field to 1980). I believe I can explain why this field is so inept. In order to proffer this explanation I am going to utilize Professor Krugman's field of economics.

Hold on: I confess I've never taken an economics course and if you ask me the relationship between interest rates and bond prices I would have a Herman Cain Libya moment. I could probably get the right answer but it would take me a while. There are some laws of economics that I believe all economists (be they salt, fresh, or brackish water) would agree on. One of these is: The more valuable a thing, the more people will be interested in purchasing that thing. And as Professor Krugman points out in his piece, the 2012 Republican nomination was clearly considered by most observers to be a thing of value.

James Carville

Even the most partisan Democrat -- me for example -- would concede that three months ago the Republicans had an excellent chance to win the presidency. So ask yourself: Why does this thing that appears to have so much value have so many low bidders? Why did people like Govs. Chris Christie, Mitch Daniels, Haley Barbour, Jeb Bush and Sen. John Thune, all look at this and decide not to raise their paddles?

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So here we wind up with the political equivalent of the Hope Diamond going for $99.99. I think that these guys were smart enough to see a big flaw in the process and it is this: The majority of the people in the Republican Party who were going to pick their nominee had been so overwhelmed by misinformation, unworkable simplistic solutions -- e.g., electrifying border fences -- and anti-science, right-wing pandering, that the potential candidates decided they just could not go through with it.

We have watched GOP debates where audience members booed gay soldiers and cheered the prospect of someone dying without health insurance. We've seen a candidate who wasn't penalized in the least for not knowing that China has had nuclear weapons since 1964 but had to drop out because of a consensual sexual relationship. We have seen a member of the House Intelligence Committee who apparently didn't realize that we haven't had an embassy in Iran for the last 30 years, candidates who don't believe in evolution, and a candidate that didn't even know the voting age in the United States. Maybe Bush, Daniels, Christie, Barbour and Thune figured out ahead of time what Fairleigh Dickinson University uncovered just recently: that people who watch Fox News are actually more ignorant than people who watch no news at all. Could you imagine what they would have found had they studied people listening to talk radio?

Perhaps the Republicans are getting exactly the kind of candidates that best match the intellectual composition of the majority of the people in their party -- just a thought, but it's my only explanation of our low bidders. Looks like their chance at the presidency is going, going, gone.