Editor's note: James Carville is a Democratic strategist who serves as a political contributor for CNN, appearing frequently on CNN's "The Situation Room" as well as other programs on all CNN networks. Carville remains active in Democratic politics and is a party fundraiser.
(CNN) -- It is no secret that President Obama is in a tough fight for re-election. He is correct in describing himself as the underdog at the present time.
In an atmosphere of high unemployment, declining incomes, and worldwide financial angst you would be correct in thinking that the Republicans are on the verge of having another big year. In order for the president to win this go-round it is essential that he faces a weak Republican opponent. This opponent would undoubtedly emerge from an equally weak Republican field.
Thus far the Republican field of 2012 is a Democratic dream come true. This crop of candidates is not just weak, it is a joke.
Now you are saying, "There goes that crazy Cajun again calling the opposition a joke." I can hear the men in wool sport coats with suede elbow patches scratching their chins. There is a collective harrumph from the "it's time to tone down the rhetoric" crowd of people. Before you condemn my rather provocative adjective in describing the Republican field, please consider the following:
1. It is undeniably the duty of the opposition party to field a credible slate of candidates for the nation's highest office. It is particularly important that they do so in times of national distress (and this certainly qualifies as such).
2. This situation in modern times is most analogous to the presidential primaries of 1980. To justify my deeming the Republican field an absolute joke I have compiled a list of comparable candidates for your reading pleasure. This battle of résumés proves incredibly entertaining -- feel free to indulge.
Lets start at the top by matching up the front-runners:
Mitt Romney vs. Ronald Reagan -- please hold your laughter because it's only getting funnier from here on out. Reagan stepped up as two-time governor of California who came within an inch of the nomination in 1976. He gave the keynote address at the Republican convention of 1964 and was a longtime consistent conservative for years prior to his running for president for the second time in 1980. Romney is an accomodationist technocrat who is an ideological pretzel of a man. In his four years as governor, Massachusetts ranked 49th in job creation and Katrina saved him from coming in at 50. But hey -- Romney has recently released a 59-point economic plan for recovery. Go ahead and name three of those 59 points -- see, told ya so. I have no idea why that right-wing clown in Dallas is attacking his Mormon faith -- it may be the only thing he really believes in.
This one is delicious -- Rick Perry vs. George H. W. Bush. I'm sorry, but Perry is Fred Thompson on steroids. To be clear, Thompson was actually a pretty damn good lawyer who has some intellectual heft to him -- although he hid it rather well in his 2008 race. On the contrary, Perry literally can't string two sentences together. His performance before the Values Voters Summit was universally panned. Perry couldn't give a good speech with all the time in the world to prepare. We are now told the problem is that he doesn't get enough sleep. Break out the Lunesta -- Rick Perry is coming storming back! Note to the Perry campaign: You are supposed to give him the Lunesta after the debate, not before. I know Perry speaks some Spanish but I don't believe "debate" translates to "siesta." Bush was a war hero, a successful entrepreneur, director of the Central Intelligence Agency, ambassador to the United Nations, U.S. envoy to China, and chairman of the Republican National Committee. George H. W. Bush went on to serve as vice president and president of the United States. Sorry, Rick, I don't see you filling those shoes anytime soon.
Let's match up Herman Cain vs Bob Dole. Like George H.W. Bush, Dole was a war hero, a member of the Kansas House of Representatives, elected to the U.S. House of Representatives, became a senator, was selected as a vice-presidential running mate, and chaired the Republican National Committee. He later went on to serve as chairman of the Senate Finance Committee, Senate majority leader, and Senate minority leader. Herman can't even make an edible pizza. Republican or not -- you have to admit, that stuff was pretty bad.
Moving on to Michele Bachmann vs. Howard Baker (I'm sorry I couldn't help myself.) Baker served in the U.S. Navy, was elected to the U.S. Senate, was asked to serve on the Supreme Court by Nixon, and served two terms as Senate minority leader. He later received the Presidential Medal of Freedom and inspired the formation of the Howard H. Baker, Jr. Center for Public Policy at the University of Tennessee. Could you see Michele Bachmann being nominated for a Presidential Medal in the near future?! Of course, some people might say, to be fair to Bachmann, Baker has never claimed to cure anyone of homosexuality.
I haven't even spoken of former governor of Texas John Connally who, unlike Perry, served as a competent governor, served as both secretary of the Navy and secretary of the Treasury. Even I am getting tired of beating this piñata of a field. The other Republicans of the presidential primaries of 1980 consisted of Sen. Lowell Weicker of Connecticut, who was a liberal Republican and a rather influential member of the Senate Watergate committee (for those of you over 45 you can remember such a species.)
John Anderson, selected as a third-party candidate, went on to gain a significant number of votes in the general election. Phil Crane, a well-respected Republican, was thought to be an articulate promoter of conservative ideology. Harold Stassen would fit in nicely with the current crop of underwhelming candidates sure to disappoint. Ben Fernandez, the former ambassador to Paraguay, was said to be the first Hispanic to run for president. He has escaped my memory much like I'm sure Thaddeus McCotter has escaped your memory by now as well (let the Googling ensue).
The two most qualified candidates, Newt Gingrich and Jon Huntsman, can't even get their own party to take them seriously. Jon Huntsman's career can be compared to Lowell Weicker's unsuccessful quest for a presidential nomination. Gingrich's public ethical issues have made him a presidential outcast. Regardless, these three are notoriously marked by their inability to get votes (in their favor that is.)
I'll conclude by saying that it may not be appropriate to refer to the Republican slate as a joke. I'm sorry I take it back -- they are, more fittingly, pathetic. In times like this there is nothing wrong with the nation having a good laugh, just as long as it's not at the expense of a major political party. The 1980 field in comparison to 2012 reminds me of the recent LSU vs. Florida game.
Not to rub it in but the score was LSU 41- Florida 11.
The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of James Carville.