The conventional wisdom manufacturers on NPR and PBS this week have announced that the actual Republican presidential field has only three serious candidates: Mitt Romney, Tim Pawlenty, and the current media favorite, Jon Huntsman. On Friday night’s All Things Considered, “conservative” NPR analyst David Brooks said the week belonged to Huntsman, and Texas Gov. Rick Perry is too conservative to have appeal. Liberal analyst E.J. Dionne suggested Perry was "very, very conservative."
On Monday night’s Charlie Rose show on PBS, the assembled journalists came up with the same trio, but former Wall Street Journal Washington Bureau Chief Al Hunt strongly insisted Newt Gingrich was just a “joke” and a "travesty" as a candidate:
First, Friday night on NPR:
MICHELE NORRIS, anchor: Fellows, I think it's time for our weekly check-in on the ever-growing, shifting, evolving, shrinking, expanding GOP field. This week, Governor Romney is in Iowa. Michele Bachmann says she'll have a big announcement soon - no exact date. And today, Governor Rick Perry of Texas says he's now considering a run in 2012. Perry is one candidate we really haven't spent much time talking about. Should we assume that a governor from a big state will automatically shake up the candidate pool?
DAVID BROOKS: Well, he is from a big state, but that state happens to be Texas. And I think there was a general view among Republicans that governors of Texas have been tried and maybe they shouldn't go back to that well again so soon. He's also quite a conservative fellow on education, some of those things which will hurt him. He's also - the reputation is not the greatest campaigner on earth. So, I'm not sure Perry is flirting because there's a vacuum there.
I would say this week sort of belongs to Jon Huntsman. Among those who talk about those things, the former governor of Utah, his stock has suddenly risen and I would say he seems to have entered the big three of Huntsman, Pawlenty and Romney.
E.J. DIONNE: I agree with David that Huntsman is going to become the next darling of the Washington conventional wisdom, at least for a while. You know, Governor Perry spoke loosely about Texas secession a couple of years ago. Maybe he could run on a program to let all the states secede - and Massachusetts and Vermont might actually want to if he got elected. He's a very, very conservative governor.
But the Republican race now is like the Publisher's Clearinghouse Sweepstakes. Anybody can enter, anybody can win. And I think that the field is so cut up, Republican opinion is so divided that it's hard to rule out anybody as having a possibility of winning...
NORRIS: That's an amazing statement you made - anybody can win. Is that true?
DIONNE: Well, I don't mean the general election, I do mean the nomination.
BROOKS: It's not true, by the way. Only Pawlenty, Romney and Huntsman can win. All the rest are in there for fun.
Then there’s the PBS chatter on Gingrich from Monday:
MARK HALPERIN: I still think under a certain scenario he could be a nominee. I`m in a pretty small group who thinks that still.
AL HUNT: You and Callista. (Laughter)
HALPERIN: He`s in category with Bachmann and Palin. He could have a real impact on this. I don`t think either Huntsman or Pawlenty will be particularly inclined to or be particularly effective at going after Romney on Romneycare. Gingrich I think, despite what he said recently about individual mandate, I think he could end up playing that role. I think he will be still be a pretty formidable fund-raiser and have table-stakes.
HUNT: I mean, Newt Gingrich has become a joke. He's become a travesty. He had the rollout that is the worst nightmare of any candidate in history. This is after two months ago he said he had those extramarital affairs because he cared so passionately about his country.
HALPERIN: He`s a joke in Washington. Look, there`s no one in this race -- of the big three, of the big three candidates, there`s not one who is a clear social conservative, religious conservative candidate.
HUNT: Neither is Newt.
HALPERIN: He could be.
HUNT: He changes. He's adaptable. I agree. He doesn't have a history.
HALPERIN: I'm not saying he's likely to win but I think after Bachmann and Palin, the next most likely to shake things up and play a role, and Ron Paul as well....
CHARLIE ROSE; You know what, I remember? I remember in 1992. They looked around and they said, my god, all the top tier people are not running. Mario Cuomo is not running. People thought that Bill Clinton was running really to be vice president and running for `96.
HALPERIN: But the difference is Bill Clinton felt like Ronald Reagan felt when he ran and like George Bush felt when he ran and Barack Obama. This is my moment. This is my destiny. This is what I should do right now because what I offer matches what the country needs. Some of these people in the race now I don`t think have that attitude. I think that`s normally what it takes to win and particularly to beat someone like Obama who is despite the ceiling on his support still commands a very strong base of support.