This is my 10th presidential campaign, Lord help me. I have never before seen such a bunch of vile, desperate-to-please, shameless, embarrassing losers coagulated under a single party’s banner. They are the most compelling argument I’ve seen against American exceptionalism. [...] There are those who say, cynically, if this is the dim-witted freak show the Republicans want to present in 2012, so be it. I disagree. One of them could get elected. You never know.
For respectable Republicans, the embarrassment potential may be at an all-time high. The party is a year away from picking its next presidential candidate and never in the modern era has it faced a vacuum like this.
The party’s base — which nominated several utterly unelectable candidates in several high-stakes Senate races last year — is in revolt, thirsting for purity and likely to accede to a Romney or Pawlenty nomination only with reluctance. Before then, it figures to be tempted by an atypically large collection of red meat-spouting long shots: Michele Bachman, Newt Gingrich, John Bolton, Rick Santorum, maybe even Sarah Palin or (why not?) Herman Cain — personally and politically polarizing extremists who validate a damaging stereotype of the Obama-era GOP.
UPDATE: At this point before the 2008 presidential election, at least 17 Democrats and Republicans had officially set up their exploratory committees or declared they were running for the presidency. Obama famously declared he was running on February 10, 2007, in the same city where Lincoln had done the same thing. But things are getting off to a slow start this year. Only three Republicans have formed exploratory committees — Cain, Pawlenty, and Roemer — and nobody has actually declared they are running. NBC even had to postpone their first presidential debate, which was scheduled for May 2, until September 14.