Matthews: What is wrong with the GOP?

Updated

You have to wonder what’s going on in the Republican Party this season.

If it were a regular Republican year, we’d have the party falling for a presidential candidate by now.  They’d have a favorite and they’d be getting ready to run him against the Democratic incumbent.  This would especially be the case when the man in the White House looks to be vulnerable.

It’s not happening. What we’re seeing now is not the normal Republican situation where you have a candidate gaining strength.  We’re seeing the opposite.  We have a moderate Republican - Mitt Romney - sitting on about a quarter of the vote and one candidate after another popping up as his number-one alternative.

There was all that insiders’ excitement about Governor Mitch Daniels of Indiana, then a dust-up over Haley Barbour of Mississippi, then came Donald Trump before he “blew” the “birther” issue.

We had Congresswoman Michele Bachman who rose up, then dropped. We all got excited about Governor Rick Perry of Texas as a conservative prospect, then saw him flounder in TV debates.

And now Herman Cain is dominating the numbers and matching Mitt Romney in a way that must make Romney think that anybody but him will always get a number equal to or higher than him.

You know what year this one is beginning to resemble: 1964.  In that year, one candidate - Henry Cabot Lodge - won New Hampshire.  Another - New York governor Nelson Rockefeller won the Oregon primary. Still another, Arizona senator Barry Goldwater, won California - and, with it, the nomination.

This has been a political season much like that - one candidate after another popping up, then flattening out.

Could it be that we’re watching the same situation now as in 1964? The Republicans aren’t happy with their presumed candidate so they’re shopping around for someone, anyone, else.

One difference is the timing, with the caucuses and primaries pushed up to New Year’s, the election campaign is basically being fought out months ahead of when it was in 1964.

What’s the same is the relentless rejection of the frontrunner. The only question is whether Mitt Romney can lose the nomination fight to nobody?  It will take somebody else winning it for him to lose it. That alone seems to make it look good for Mitt Romney. They don’t like any of the other candidates to come along all that much more than they do him - although I’m beginning to wonder about Herman Cain.   He’s starting to open up a lead. 

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Matthews: What is wrong with the GOP?

Updated