Bill Kristol is not satisfied with his 17 choices for the Republican nomination. And of course he isn't. Being dissatisfied with Republican presidential options at this stage in the race is one of the neoconservative Weekly Standard editor's trademarks, along with calling for endless ground warfare and ordering congressional Republicans to kill off major governmental achievements.
Kristol hated the 2012 Republican field. This was one of the few defensible positions he held in his career, because the 2012 Republican field was terrible. Throughout 2011 he pushed for Paul Ryan to get in the race and for Marco Rubio to be his running mate. When Paul Ryan announced in August 2011 that he would not run, Kristol called (tongue kinda-sorta in-cheek) for the ticket's inversion, with Rubio at the top and Ryan as the veep candidate. He ultimately got half of his dream ticket, which went on to lose.
In his fresh new expression of dismay, Kristol doesn't appear as upset with the field as he was four years ago. But to him, it's still bad enough to merit new entrants. "Shouldn't Republicans be open to doing what Democrats are now considering?" he asks. "That is: Welcoming into the race, even drafting into the race if need be, one or two new and potentially superior candidates?"
Who could such a mysterious dark horse be? Well, it's not as if every well-qualified contender is already on the field. Mitch Daniels was probably the most successful Republican governor of recent times, with federal executive experience to boot. Paul Ryan is the intellectual leader of Republicans in the House of Representatives, with national campaign experience. The House also features young but tested leaders like Jim Jordan, Trey Gowdy and Mike Pompeo. There is the leading elected representative of the 9/11 generation who has also been a very impressive freshman senator, Tom Cotton. There could be a saner and sounder version of Trump—another businessman who hasn't held electoral office. And there are distinguished conservative leaders from outside politics; Justice Samuel Alito and General (ret.) Jack Keane come to mind.
Oh god, Mitch Daniels and Paul Ryan again. No one cares about the former, and the latter has probably doomed his chances by sidling up with the House Republican leadership. Jim Jordan, Trey Gowdy, and... Mike Pompeo... not even going to bother with that. Tom Cotton! Of course Bill Kristol would love that. Sam Alito (lol) stepping down to run for president would be excellent news for liberals if it opened up a vacancy on the Supreme Court. Sam Alito should definitely run. He would probably do really well. Can someone go over to Sam's house and tell him to run for president? Thanks.
Am I going to have to be the guy who reassures Bill Kristol of the quality of the existing field? Is this really something that I'll do? Sure, why not.
The field right now looks worse than it is because of Donald Trump. It should embarrass most of the candidates that Trump still has any support, and especially that he retains a comfortable, surprisingly enduring plurality of support. So long as he does, and he's eating away at other candidates' targeted voters, the field is going to look weak. The big question is still whether Trump has peaked or if he's in it for the duration. It's a more serious question than some of us would have liked to believe a few weeks ago.
If Trump collapses and his supporters matriculate to the rest of the field, though, there would seem to be plenty of candidates for Bill Kristol to support. Two of his golden boys from the 2012 cycle, Christie and Rubio, are actually in this race. Jeb Bush and Scott Walker are hilarious disasters right now, but that could change. John Kasich is basically the same thing as Mitch Daniels. Carly Fiorina enjoys bombing countries and deregulation and stuff; what's wrong with her, Bill? "Fancy Rick Perry" is a precious delight this time around, Lindsey Graham absolutely adores war. Bobby Jindal is a human.
There are plenty of candidates for Bill Kristol to fall in love with already, if ever he'd just let his heart run free.