The race for the Republican Presidential nomination was thrown into turmoil this week when early leaders Donald Trump and Mike Huckabee opted out.
"Clearly it's a big development, especially Huckabee," says Rolling Stone political and economics reporter Matt Taibbi. "He had a media platform, credibility and momentum from the last campaign and a good relationship with the press. He got along with liberal reporters better than a lot of other [GOP] candidates. It's a big deal."
How big? The early exits by Trump and Huckabee make Barack Obama's reelection a near certainty, according to Taibbi. "I just don't see anyone in this current field who's going to be able to take [Obama] on in the general election…especially after bin Laden," he says. "I have personal gripes with Barack Obama [but] from a betting standpoint, I just don't see it." (I'm not so sure given Obama's low popularity ratings and a still uncertain economy, but my colleague Henry Blodget wholeheartedly agrees.)
Taibbi breaks down the current crop of likely and declared GOP candidates as follows:
- Former Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty: The best of the bunch but lacking the "charisma" to defeat Obama.
- Former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney: "A candidate who views politics like a marketing exercise: He changes positions routinely," Taibbi says. More importantly, Romney is the "father of Obamacare" and gets "at best, a tepid response" from Republican voters. "They always like him as the second-best guy."
- Newt Gingrich, Michelle Bachman, Rick Santorum and Ron Paul: Each has personal flaws and all are "intermittently crazy," according to Taibbi.
Furthermore, "all these candidates are highly aggressively and confrontational and they will be taking on each other with extreme bloodlust during the primary season," Taibbi says. "They will do a lot of damage to each other."
Also working in Obama's favor is the organization and passion of Tea Party members, says Taibbi, one of the first national reporters to cover the movement. "They're going to have big say in who gets to be the GOP nominee," he says. "That's why I feel Barack Obama's chances are that much better: the likelihood the Republican nominee will be a more moderate figure is fairly low."
As a self-described liberal, you'd think Taibbi would be thrilled about this turn of events. But he's not as you'll see in the accompanying video. "It's an extreme personal disappointment Trump is not going to be in campaign," he says. "I was looking forward to the pure entertainment value of a Trump campaign."
What do you think? Is Obama really a shoo-in for reelection?