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The GOP’s cast of clowns

On Sunday night, Tim Pawlenty released another of his oddball videos, reminding people yet again that he was running for president. 

Such periodic reminders aren’t a bad idea, since it only takes 10 minutes for the average person to forget he exists. But at least give him props — he’s actually attempting to be the Bob Dole of 2012 in a year in which nearly all serious Republicans have decided they have better things to do than lose to President Obama.

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So rather than a high-caliber presidential field, the Republicans have put together a cavalcade of clowns.

There’s Mitt Romney, granddaddy of Obama’s healthcare plan — the same healthcare plan that base Republicans now consider worse than Hitler. Flip-flopping on the individual mandate is familiar territory for Romney. Remember, he was for a woman’s right to choose before he was against it, he was for gay rights before he wanted them relegated to second-class citizens, he was for the assault-weapons ban before he was against it, he was for raising the minimum wage before he wanted it eliminated, he was for limits on carbon emissions that he now opposes, etc., etc., etc. 

And all that flapping around is for naught. The GOP base holds grudges.

Newt Gingrich rolled out his presidential campaign by bashing Rep. Paul Ryan’s (R-Wis.) Medicare-killing budget. “I am against ObamaCare imposing radical change, and I would be against a conservative imposing radical change,” he proclaimed on a Sunday morning talk show. The resulting howl marked the birth of yet another GOP litmus test — you are either for destroying Medicare, or you are Republican In Name Only. Thus, the architect of the 1994 conservative revolution in the House was declared by Rush Limbaugh (among others) to be a RINO.

Now, after a week of trying to walk back the slam on the Ryan budget, questions about past support for an individual healthcare mandate and something about a $500,000 Tiffany’s bill, Gingrich declared that he will no longer answer “gotcha” questions about anything he’s said or written in the past. As one person quipped on Twitter, “Gingrich thinks his record has fallen ill & he can cleanly divorce it.”

How about Sarah Palin? True, the half-term governor is too lazy to finish anything, but she’s never too lazy to start something. While she’d suffer an epic double-digit loss to Obama in a Mondale-like shellacking, enough of the primary-deciding GOP base adores her. If she runs, she’s a real threat for the nomination. But she won’t. It’s that “lazy” thing.

Jon Huntsman mocked the birthers, has supported an individual mandate, served in the Obama administration, believes in climate change and is Mormon. Good luck with that.

Fox News loves cardboard pizza mogul Herman Cain. Rick Santorum still exists. Gary “Who?” Johnson thinks drug legalization is his ticket. And Ron Paul will collect millions from his fervent fans to win 15 percent of the vote. 

Which leaves Minnesota Rep. Michele Bachmann, who is (don’t snicker) a real threat to win the nomination if Palin stays out. She’ll raise a ton. Has real Tea Party cred. She gets to camp out in next-door Iowa, and will appeal to the kind of people who show up to caucuses. She might be the person who could lose even worse to Obama than Palin, but the GOP primary electorate doesn’t concern itself with “electability.”

Finally, as a reminder, there’s also Tim Pawlenty. Because I’m sure you’d forgotten already.

Moulitsas is the publisher and founder of Daily Kos.