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GOP knight in shining armor isn't going to happen

By Candy Crowley, CNN Chief Political Correspondent
updated 12:41 PM EST, Mon February 27, 2012
  • Some in the Republican Party are waiting for the perfect candidate to emerge
  • But no candidate who's not already in the race seems likely to step in
  • Those on wish lists of some in the party aren't hedging on their refusal to run

Washington (CNN) -- About that knight in shining armor -- the Republican candidate with the quick-witted, pugnacious style of Newt Gingrich; the blue-collar conservative values of Rick Santorum; the cool business acumen of Mitt Romney; and the passionate supporters of Ron Paul.

Republican mythology in this contentious, messy primary season is that the perfect candidate will ride into the Republican primary in March or April -- or maybe wait until August and a brokered convention -- to fill the unmet needs of the 44% of Republican voters not satisfied with their choices.

News flash: Not going to happen.

For starters, perfect candidates seem less so in the klieg lights of the political arena.

Consider the case of then-candidate Hillary Clinton at the beginning of her 2008 presidential campaign with a 52% approval rating.

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Three and a half years later, she's globe-trotting Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, with a 69% approval rating.

The moral of that story? Voters like politicians best when they're not running for anything.

Problem No. 2: No knights in shining armor have applied for the job.

New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie -- kind of an "it boy" in the Republican Party -- once said the only way to get people to believe he's not running would be to kill himself. Now, he answers a slight permutation of the same ol' question: Might he change his mind?

"No, absolutely not. I would not reconsider my decision," he says. "I don't expect there will be a contested election."

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Other shining stars in the Republican galaxy have also dimmed the lights for 2012.

Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush: No in November 2010.

"I really have to stay focused on this goal of achieving some financial independence, financial security for my family," he said then.

"And that's just as simple as that. No one believes it because in the Washington world, I guess there's such a deep discount for the, you know, for the truth in politics. You know, politicians never say what they actually believe or something. So I'm asked this question a lot. You would think about 10 times, you would be done with it, but I keep answering it honestly."

And last week, still no.

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"Not going to happen," he said. "The party nominee will be amongst the candidates that are in the race now."

Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels? Still no, no, a thousand times no.

Is there any circumstance where he would change his mind?

"There really isn't," he said. "It would just take a change of heart on the part of my family. And again it's not an ambition or an obsession I have ever had."

It's not as if any of them are hedging. But if not them, then who?

There is Sen. Marco Rubio, a Cuban-American with tea party support and crossover appeal to mainstream Republicans. He's too green and too young, but pencil him in for 2016 or 2020. In the meantime, put him on your veep list this year.

The one Republican rock star left is former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin, who electrified the party four years ago. But her unfavorability rating hit an all-time high of 62% last fall.

Call her a former rock star.

Anything can happen in a political campaign. But odds are overwhelming that the Republican presidential nominee is somewhere on the campaign trail today.

In the end, the search for the perfect candidate is an interesting parlor game. It's just not grounded in the reality of political life in the klieg lights.

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