To hear pundits David Brooks and E.J. Dionne tell it, Republicans have more than a Hobson's choice when it comes to who their 2012 nominee will be. But just barely.
On All Things Considered, Brooks and Dionne whittled down the Republican presidential field for Melissa Block to two former governors: Mitt Romney of Massachusetts and Tim Pawlenty of Minnesota.
All the others being mentioned as candidates? Forget about them. They both agreed that the field was uninspiring, with Dionne comparing it to what the Democrats had to choose from at the end of the 1980s.
DIONNE: (Pawlenty's) the candidate with the fewest obvious flaws and the least baggage. What this reminds me of is the 1988 Democratic field. People called it the seven dwarves of course, back then. Tim Pawlenty looks like Mike Dukakis to me. And I'm from Massachusetts so I don't mean that as an insult... although Dukakis did lost the general election...
Certainly not a ringing endorsement for T-Paw But Dionne's a liberal Democrat. So Pawlenty probably wouldn't prefer no effusive praise from him to start with.
They agreed that Mitch Daniels, Indiana's governor, could be a compelling candidate. Trouble is, he doesn't seem to be readying himself to make the 2012 race.
Neither thought that despite all the media attention they get, two other former governors, Mike Huckabee or Sarah Palin would run.
How about Haley Barbour of Mississippi or Jon Huntsman of Utah. No and no.
Brooks thinks it's a stretch to see the nomination going to a former tobacco lobbyist from the South. Or, for that matter, a Republican who served in the Obama Administration as U.S. ambassador to China.
They didn't even bother to mention Ron Paul or Herman Cain.
So we're back to where we started, with Romney and Pawlenty.
BROOKS: I wish Mitch Daniels would run. I think it's an extremely weak field without Daniels in it.
I don't think Newt Gingrich. Do not let that man near a management job. Very interesting to listen to. Don't let him run anything.
I really think it's down to Pawlenty and Romney in terms of the people in front of us. It's so sad to be so narrowed down so fast. I don't think Huckabee's going to run. And so it's really down to these two sort of establishment figures around which, so far, there's not much definition or excitement. Maybe they can generate it. But so far, I'd say a lot of Republicans are feeling some letdown.