I Coulda Been a Contender
The extent to which Gov. Mark Sanford’s Argentina affair has been analyzed through the prism of 2012 presidential politics has exceeded even my wildest expectations.  This is partly due to the current leadership vacuum in the Republican Party, but also to what I have previously described as the voracious demands of the instantaneous news cycle. Cable news outlets, talk radio programs, websites and the blogs have a bottomless appetite for this sort of voyeurism and speculation, which often leads them to overstate the long-term significance of the hot political story of the moment.
Now, I am not opposed to a little political handicapping. I often discuss potential candidates on this blog with an eye toward giving you the most accurate assessment possible of an individual’s electoral prospects. While Sanford was legitimately in the Republican presidential mix, in this case I think the 2012 aspect of the story has been overstated. From some of the coverage I have seen, you would think he was already the presumptive Republican nominee.
More broadly, we are only six months into a new presidential administration, and, as Gail Collins recently observed, virtually any opposition politician with a modicum of stature is being identified as a potential presidential contender. Each is duly scrutinized by the media for what his or her current behavior signifies for future presidential prospects. In reality, however, most of these individuals have little or no chance of winning the nomination.
For example, some in the media are now suggesting that Haley Barbour’s sudden elevation to the Republican Governors Association’s chairmanship raises his profile as a contender for 2012. For this, I refer you to my previous post on the subject (hint: not a chance).

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