By Niall Stanage - 12/19/11 10:15 AM EST
THE GOP’S IMPERFECT FIELD OF CANDIDATES
As the Republican Party searched for a presidential nominee, former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney kept bumping his head against a low ceiling in the polls as would-be conservative darlings rose and fell with abandon.
The quintessential establishment figure in many ways, Romney’s flip-flops and perceived inauthenticity caused heartburn even to Washington insiders. (George Will described him as “a recidivist reviser of his principles” in an October Washington Post column.)
The search for an Un-Romney has been a long and winding one. Rep. Michele Bachmann of Minnesota won the Ames, Iowa, straw poll in August but was quickly eclipsed by Texas Gov. Rick Perry.
The gun-loving Perry proceeded to shoot himself in the foot repeatedly, most infamously forgetting during a November debate the name of one of the three federal agencies he wanted to dismantle.
Herman Cain was one of the more intriguing Romney alternatives. But he imploded in spectacular fashion, undone by allegations of sexual harassment and infidelity.
That left Newt Gingrich as an unlikely Lazarus, coming back from his campaign’s near-death experience earlier in the year. Gingrich is, at worst, co-front-runner with Romney at this point — but whether he can curb his tendency toward self-destruction remains an open question.