Who is the leader of the Republican Party now?
Ain’t no one. Despite (or maybe because of) the GOP’s big midterm victory, not a soul has stepped forward to be the face of the party. It is always difficult for the opposition to provide a clear counterweight to the President, but never in recent memory has a party, let alone an ascendant one, been so headless.
Where are all the potential leaders?
The top congressional honchos — Speaker John Boehner and Senator Mitch McConnell — are low-key, standard-issue conservatives who tiptoe into the spotlight. And there is such a crush of Capitol Hill minibarons (Senators Jon Kyl and John McCain, House Budget Committee chairman Paul Ryan and lots of caffeinated incoming freshmen among them) that no single person can dominate. The contenders to replace Michael Steele as chair of the Republican National Committee all seem competent, but the eventual winner will never go head to head with Barack Obama. The Republican governors — even big-staters such as Rick Perry in Texas, John Kasich in Ohio and Rick Scott in Florida — are still too little known to shorten the distance between statehouse stage and Beltway big top. Most surprisingly, the would-be 2012 presidential contenders are in a game of reverse chicken; no one wants to be the first to formally enter the fray. The breathless politico-press reaction to former Utah governor Jon Huntsman’s cryptic refusal to rule out a 2012 bid was evidence of the vacuum.
Does this leadership void matter?
Republicans were able to win the midterm rout without a public captain but were outfoxed in December’s lame-duck session by a President who took full advantage of the bully-pulpit mismatch. Now Obama has both the platform and the mojo, and it will take a strong Republican voice to be heard.