During one of the worst economic times in American history, one might think providing a challenger to oppose the mediocre President Barack Obama would be a simple task for the Republican Party, the party that gave us Abraham Lincoln and Ronald Reagan. It has proved to be anything but simple.

Almost a year ago, Sarah Palin seemed like a contender. She flirted with the idea, fell behind in the polls and has, for the moment, faded from the fray.

Real estate tycoon “The Donald” Trump also seemed to be considering running for president, but decided not to leave the relative sanity of the private sector.

Michele Bachmann stepped out strongly, until several gaffes and an unflattering photo on Newsweek’s cover overshadowed her message.

In stepped Texas Gov. Rick Perry, whose own flubs made Bachmann look like one smart cookie. Ron Paul’s libertarian-lite positions on unions, the EPA and the military could alienate many voters. Herman Cain and his catchy 9-9-9 tax plan emerged as a possible formula for GOP success — until allegations of sexual improprieties forced him out of the running.

Now the race seems to be down to Newt Gingrich and Mitt Romney.

Gingrich already has dealt with his own rattling skeletons, but is a dichotomy. He’s the best known but also the most divisive candidate. Romney could be a strong opponent against Obama, but his Massachusetts health care plan still haunts him, and his Mormon faith is a problem for some religious conservatives.

What a mess.

Someone from the Republican Party really ought to take the reins and run the race, or Obama will be able to sleepwalk his way back into the White House.

— Northwest Florida Daily News, Fort Walton Beach, Dec. 12

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