As Republican elites panic over the apparent weakness of their presidential field, it's worth noting the extent to which this isn't a novel situation. To borrow from Battlestar Galactica, "All this has happened before, and all this will happen again." For example, here are two New York Times headlines from 1991 and 1992:
And here's a line from the Feb. 5, 1992, piece, where the Times takes a dig at the disorganized, undisciplined Democratic field:
"But Mr. Bush could not seem to escape the impression that, with the Democratic field still in disarray and the economy still in recession, he was still running against himself"
Of course, Democrats eventually united behind the then-obscure Gov. Bill Clinton of Arkansas, whose growing popularity was bolstered by public discontent with the sour economy.
If history is any guide, there's simply nothing about this particular crop of Republican candidates that dooms them in 2012, given a poor economy. Republicans should be a little more optimistic about their chances, and Democrats should avoid resting on their laurels. To their credit, the Obama campaign understands this, "Unless it's Palin or Gingrich, we expect a very close race no matter who emerges."