Presidential campaigns have a way of making candidates larger than they appear when things begin. The guy you think is a mediocrity, if he is nominated by your party, can end up looking like a world-historic figure who just may be able to solve all of our country's problems. And the politician from the other party whom you can't muster more than a mild distaste for can end up looking like Lex Luthor, infinitely villainous in both his intentions and his nefarious plans.
So if you're looking at the 2012 Republican candidates and saying, "Well, I don't like Tim Pawlenty, but I don't hate him," worry not. If he becomes the Republican nominee, you will.
But there's one thing you no longer have to be afraid of, a fear that seemed both real and horrifying just a few months ago: a Sarah Palin presidency. Remember how exercised progressives used to get about her? Now she's easily the most unpopular politician in America, little more than a buffoonish sideshow it's hardly worth getting mad about. Steve Kornacki explains:
It's hard to look back at the last six month and pinpoint one precise moment when the bottom fell out for Palin (although her response to the shooting of Gabrielle Giffords, panned as tone deaf by even many of her fellow Republicans, comes close). But at some point recently, she stopped simply being a polarizing lightning rod -- one with as many fanatical followers as diehard critics -- and transformed into a figure who even Republican-leaning voters have a hard time taking seriously.
It seems amazing that so recently, progressives were having passionate discussions among themselves about whether it would be better for Palin to get the GOP nomination so she could lose in the general election, or whether that was just too much of a risk to take. It's safe to say at this point that she isn't running, and if she did, the inevitable failure would pull her national standing down even further. But there's always 2016, and you never know. After all, back in 1962, no one thought that creepy, sweaty Dick Nixon could ever win a public office again, either.