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Enough! GOP doesn't need more candidates

By Ruben Navarrette Jr., CNN Contributor
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STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Ruben Navarrette says there have been calls for more GOP candidates to run for president
  • He says big names floated, but there are already candidates running who reflect their views
  • He says problem is that GOP base doesn't know what it wants
  • Navarrette: If Republicans can't decide what they want, they don't deserve to win
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Editor's note: Ruben Navarrette Jr. writes a weekly column for CNN.com and is a nationally syndicated columnist.

San Diego (CNN) -- An emerging storyline about Republicans' presidential choices is that there aren't enough of them. At least that's what the media assure us with headlines like: "There's room for more GOP candidates."

There are those who remain convinced that even with nine officially declared and viable candidates for the GOP presidential nomination, the field could use more applicants.

The names thrown around include former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin, Rep. Paul Ryan, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani and former New York Gov. George Pataki. Ryan, Christie and Pataki have decided to stay out of the fray. But Palin and Giuliani might be interested in running.

That won't be necessary. It's not that they are not attractive candidates with a following. It's that there is nothing they could bring to this race that isn't provided by someone who is already in the race.

For those who like Palin's straight talk, there is Michele Bachmann. For those who like Giuliani's middle-of-the-road approach to tough issues, there is Mitt Romney. For those who think Palin could fire up religious voters, there is Rick Santorum. For those who think she could galvanize the Tea Party, there is Rick Perry. For those who like it that Giuliani appeals to Democrats and Independents, there is Jon Huntsman. And for those who appreciate that Giuliani knows how to take a punch and give one back, there is Newt Gingrich.

As the traditional kickoff of presidential campaigns, Labor Day is as good a time as any to declare the race closed. It's time for the Republican Party to move forward with the candidates it has instead of pining away for those who may have other interests. Anyone who is serious about getting in the race -- as opposed to using the anticipation to sell books and boost speakers' fees -- should have been in by now.

The hour is late, the battle lines drawn. The first round of skirmishes will almost certainly be between Romney, who previously led the field, and Perry, the new front-runner.

According to a CNN/ORC International poll, 27% of Republicans and independent voters who lean toward the GOP support Perry, while 14% back Romney. The poll also shows support for people who aren't in the race: 10% for Palin and 9% for Giuliani.

But what good does it do to have public support if you don't eventually launch a campaign? And is this support based on how voters feel about these individuals, or does it come from a general feeling of wanting to have more choices?

Hopefully, it's the former. It is pointless for Republicans to keep calling for more choices when they don't even know what to do with the ones they have. There is no perfect candidate, one who will be universally loved and admired by all segments of the party. Republicans are splintered. So you could double the size of the presidential field, and you'd still have people griping that there aren't enough choices.

What we're seeing is a detectable ambivalence within the base of the Republican Party, and it has almost nothing to do with the quality of the candidates. It has to do with the base itself. It doesn't know what it wants, other than a candidate who is guaranteed to defeat President Obama. What Republicans are saying when they call for more choices is that they don't have confidence that any of the declared candidates can do that.

The irony is that this a bad time for Republicans to unravel. Obama's approval ratings are hovering at about 40%. The economy isn't improving. And Obama is facing criticism from supporters for breaking promises, abandoning ideals and being too quick to compromise with the opposition. Many of the people who helped put him in office might not turn out to vote to help keep him there.

But none of that will matter if Republicans can't settle their differences, unite their party and define their vision for where they would lead the nation. If they do that, they may win back the White House. If they don't, they don't deserve to.

The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of Ruben Navarrette.