It seems that another Republican joins the race to win his or her party's presidential nomination almost every day. It was George Pataki, a former governor of New York that some New Yorkers probably don't remember, this week.
Hardly any of them offers the nation much hope. They all, with one possible exception, have serious drawbacks.
Hillary Rodham Clinton, the Democratic front-runner, has a problem, too. Hers, quite simply, is greed. This 67-year-old woman, who started life as a middle-class kid in Illinois, and her 68-year-old husband, who came out of Hope, Ark., to become president of the United States, earned between them $25 million for speeches they delivered to just about anyone willing to pay big bucks, from auto dealers to summer camp operators. Bill Clinton said he gave so many speeches because "I gotta pay our bills." Palpable nonsense.
Carly Fiorina, a Republican, whose sole credential is her checkered career as CEO of Hewlett-Packard, is a heckler. Wednesday, as Mrs. Clinton prepared to give a speech at a South Carolina hotel, Ms. Fiorina appeared across the street and held a news conference to criticize Mrs. Clinton. For some right-wing Republicans, her obsession with Mrs. Clinton is good, red meat.
Mrs. Clinton's only serious rival in her own party is Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont, a spry 73-year-old with a serious liberal, occasionally even socialist, background. He will have his day, but the conventional wisdom seriously warns he's too far left to take seriously. We'll see.
Jeb Bush hasn't officially declared his candidacy (though he slipped and said he was running the other day). Mr. Bush, the former governor of Florida and the son and brother of presidents, just seems confused. He was asked a few days ago if he would have invaded Iraq knowing what his brother knew. Sure, he replied, and then began dithering. It's a terrible dilemma: Should he openly criticize some of the decisions made by his father and his brother, to mark himself as his own man, or should he continue to blindly support both of them? So far, he seems unsure.
Rick Santorum, a former senator from Pennsylvania (he lost his seat by 700,000 votes in 2006), actually won 11 primaries when he sought the nomination in 2012. Obamacare, he believes, is the "death knell" for the United States. Same-sex marriage is a death knell too. He would appear to be wildly out of touch, which is why he appealed to so many Tea Party conservatives in 2012.
Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas is an opportunist, maybe even a hypocrite. He said the other day President Obama is responsible for the mess in Iraq. Mr. Cruz thinks he should have enforced his self-declared don't-cross red line, but didn't. Well, Dana Milbank notes in the Washington Post, one of the reasons he didn't is that Mr. Cruz campaigned so successfully against bombing Iraq. Pure hypocrisy.
Sen. Rand Paul of Kentucky seems to have declared war on his own party. "Right now," he writes in his campaign book, "Taking a Stand," published Tuesday, "the Republican brand sucks." He says he's planted giant sequoia trees in his back yard in Bowling Green. "I'm a crunchy conservative and a tree hugger and proud of it." Ronald Reagan really didn't say if you've seen one redwood you've seen them all. But he did say, "You know, a tree is a tree, how many more do you need to look at?"
By all accounts, Ben Carson was a terrific surgeon at world-class Johns Hopkins University, the first to separate conjoined twins. He is now retired from surgery, and seeking the GOP presidential nomination. He'll get some votes because he is far-out right wing, and some Republicans love him for it. He called the president a "psychopath" the other day.
Mike Huckabee, the former governor of Arkansas, is old news. He's done this before. Say this for him, though, he has the best campaign-book title, "God, Guns, Grits, and Gravy."
That leaves the most interesting Republican in the pack, Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida. He's young (44), energetic, smart, and very conservative. He once said his parents fled Cuba to escape dictator Castro. No, they fled Cuba to escape dictator Batista. Odd that he should be wrong about that. But the Latino connection is real and he and Jeb Bush, married to a woman born in Mexico, could easily appeal to Latino voters, a fast-growing bloc in this country.
Democratic strategists seem to worry most about Mr. Rubio. If he wins the nomination, Mrs. Clinton will need to convince millions of voters he's too conservative to run the country while arguing she's not too liberal for the job.
James M. Perry, a prominent veteran political reporter, contributes regular observations to post-gazette.com. Mr. Perry was the chief political correspondent of The Wall Street Journal until his retirement. Prior to that, he covered national politics for the Dow Jones weekly, The National Observer.