South Carolina didn’t determine anything other than how weak the field is…and that there’s still time for someone else to jump in

by Ryan Streeter on January 23, 2012. Follow Ryan on Twitter.

Ross Douthat is right that Bill Kristol is right:

For months now, even as the rest of the conservative commentariat has gradually resigned itself to the existing presidential field, the Weekly Standard’s Bill Kristol has continued to pine — publicly, unstintingly, immune to either embarrassment or fatigue— for another candidate to jump into the race…He’s been right all along. Right that the decisions by various capable Republicans to forgo a presidential run this year have been a collective disgrace; right that Republican primary voters deserve a better choice than the one being presented to them; and right, as well, that even now it isn’t too late for one of the non-candidates to change their mind and run.

Ross makes another observation I also think is entirely accurate:

Contrary to what some of my more excitable colleagues in the press corps have been claiming, the weekend’s results didn’t demonstrate that Newt Gingrich could actually win the Republican nomination, or prove that Mitt Romney could actually lose to him.

No, rather, the weekend’s results show us just how incredibly weak Romney is. Like Ross, I think that Romney will eventually pull this off, but owing to the weakness of the field and not the strengths of the man himself. Which is pathetic. As Ross continues:

[I]t seems absurd and pathetic that both the party and the country won’t have the chance to consider another option besides Newt the Great and Terrible.

Absurd, pathetic, and pretty much inevitable. But Kristol deserves credit for demanding better, long after the rest of us have given up. The scenario he’s seeking almost certainly won’t happen. But that’s very different from saying that it couldn’t, if someone, from Daniels to Jeb to Bobby Jindal, were willing to step into the breach that caution has created, and cowardice has sustained.

I’m with Bill Kristol: there’s still time, and if Mitch Daniels reversed his decision not to run (as the new Draft Mitch effort hopes he will), he could (I venture to say “would”) be the Republican nominee. But I fear the better men have stood down for good this time around, and we are left wondering how we, the world’s superpower and greatest repository of talent on the earth, could possibly have such dissatisfying options in the 2012 presidential contest.