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Shields and Brooks on the Week in Politics

By The NewsHour, The NewsHour - February 11, 2011

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JIM LEHRER: And to the analysis of Shields and Brooks, syndicated columnist Mark Shields, New York Times columnist David Brooks.

David, let's just get right to it.

Who is in fact going to be the Republican nominee for president in 2012?

(LAUGHTER)

DAVID BROOKS: Donald Trump.

JIM LEHRER: Donald Trump?

DAVID BROOKS: We can stop our coverage right now.

(LAUGHTER)

DAVID BROOKS: We have hit the reductio ad absurdum moment. I thought the gerbil wheel was the...

JIM LEHRER: The gerbil wheel was the highlight of the...

(LAUGHTER)

JIM LEHRER: What do you make about this? What's going on here?

DAVID BROOKS: Yes. I mean, well, a couple of things are notable for the Republican field. As Judy mentioned, it's completely wide-open. There is no structure to the race. There is not even a front-runner, the way there has been with McCain or Bush or somebody like that.

And, second, it's all very late in forming, I think, because of the congressional election. I personally think there are really very few plausible candidates. There are a lot of candidates, but Donald Trump is not going to get the nomination. And Michele Bachmann is not going to run.

Some people -- somebody may -- people may not have focused on was -- was quickly seen there, John Thune, governor -- or senator from South Dakota. He's ascending to a senior position in the Senate, so he may want to stay. But he is a smart guy, an extremely good-looking guy. John McCain always says, if I had his face, I would be president right now.

And he is a normal guy. And so, somebody like that, Mitch Daniels, the governor of Indiana, and Mitt Romney. And, for my money, those are pretty much -- maybe Tim Pawlenty -- but there are not a lot of plausible candidates -- maybe four, maybe five.

JIM LEHRER: Four or five plausible candidates, Mark?

MARK SHIELDS: Well, Jim, I don't know. I will defer to David when it comes to judging...

JIM LEHRER: Plausibility? Oh.

MARK SHIELDS: ... judging the plausibility of Republican candidates.

JIM LEHRER: Yes.

MARK SHIELDS: The reality of the CPAC meeting is that there's 11,000 people there at the hotel registered for this conference. They're a constituency in search of a candidate.

There is -- I mean, usually, it is a candidate looking for a constituency. They want to beat Barack Obama, but they don't have anybody. What impressed me the most of all there was what they did not discuss. As the world was dominated and riveted on what was going on in Egypt, they didn't even address it in their speeches.

JIM LEHRER: Well, why do you think that is?

MARK SHIELDS: Well, I think it is a lack of self-confidence, surefootedness. They didn't know what they wanted to say. They weren't sure.

The only one who was really critical that I saw was Rick Santorum, the former senator from Pennsylvania, who basically took the line that has been developed by both Sean Hannity and Glenn Beck. And that was that the -- Barack Obama, by not supporting Hosni Mubarak in his hour of need, was turning his back on a great ally.

And that -- that became the position. But there was nobody there really celebrating the moment of freedom and taking that, picking up that banner. And that -- that -- I think that does belie a lack of confidence, surefootedness, on a terribly important issue.

JIM LEHRER: Do you agree -- David, do you agree with Mark that what -- what these folks, these 11,000 people want is a candidate -- maybe not the whole Republican Party, but these 11,000, they want somebody who can beat Barack Obama; it isn't about they have a certain set of issues that they want a candidate...

DAVID BROOKS: Not for these 11,000. These are true believers.

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