As the Republican presidential lineup takes shape, party elites are increasingly voicing a common theme: disappointment.
“These are very weak frontrunners,” Bill Kristol of The Weekly Standard said today on Fox News.
Former Republican Arkansas governor and presidential candidate Mike Huckabee declared frontrunner Texas Gov. Rick Perry “not prepared for the pressure of the presidential stage yet.”
Perry entered this weekend’s Florida straw poll heavily favored and with a Texas-sized swagger, saying, “It’s great to be in the state that picks presidents. That’s what Florida does.”
He left humiliated and humbled — a distant second to Herman Caine, the man from Godfather’s Pizza, who netted 37 percent to Perry’s 15 percent.
That followed Perry’s stumbling debate performance and the hammering rivals gave him over his policy of allowing the children of illegal immigrants to pay in-state tuition at Texas public colleges.
“There may be slicker candidates and there may be smoother debaters but I know what I believe in, and I’m going to stand on that belief every day,” Perry said. ‘I will guide this country with a deep deep rudder.”
Former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, the frontrunner until Perry entered the race, took third place, struggling to muster the enthusiasm of GOP voters.
“There are a lot of Republicans out there who want the perfect candidate, the candidate that is going to sweep them off their feet, and right now they don’t see that candidate,” ABC political director Amy Walter said.
The point’s not missed by the comedy writers at “Saturday Night Live,” who showed a faux Romney this weekend, saying, “Mitt Romney might not be the perfect candidate, but he’s the perfect candidate in comparison to the other candidates.”
The Republican disarray is so intense that after Perry’s implosion, those close to New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie say there is new pressure from party leaders to recruit him to run — although he told ABC’s Diane Sawyer back in April he’s not interested.
Those close to Christie say he’s been besieged by big-name Republicans urging him to run. The sources say he still insists he will not enter the fray.
This week Christie makes fundraising stops in Missouri, California and Louisiana. That’s a lot of time … a long way from New Jersey.