(Disclosure: edited 2/26 for typos)
Something has been bothering me about the field of Republican presidential hopefuls, and it isn't the absence of Fred Thompson or Newt Gingrich.
This is it: Since 2000 (a political eternity) there has been no doubt about an open GOP ticket for '08. Dick Cheney made clear he was not going to run for president after a presumptive two-term Bush administration, leaving no heir presumptive.
And yet there is no young, vibrant Republican in the mix or even mentioned as a dark horse. No conservative media darling whose candidacy is so audacious, so presumptuous, it just might work.
There is room in the tent -- witness talk of Thompson and Gingrich, who poll better than some announced candidates in some polls, and even whispers of a third-party putsch by Michael Bloomberg and Chuck Hagel.
Of the presumed leaders John McCain is a re-tread and, thanks to his support of the of Bush war strategy, a far cry from the "rebel" he was perceived of as being last time around. Rudy Guiliani may, with his new strategy owning up to independent thinking, burnish his image or crash. Mitt Romney comes the closest to having a fire in the belly and coming from nowhere -- and he has, having abandoned virtually everything he said he stood for as governor of Massachusetts.
But where is the Republican Bill Clinton, who dreamt of being president at such a young age that he got a picture of himself pushing himself forward to shake hands with JFK on the White House lawn. Where is the Republican Barack Obama, catching fire so quickly that his only major flip-flop so far was saying he wasn't interested in being president earlier in the same year he relented.
There are colleges which mint Republicans. There are Young Republican clubs on campuses everywhere. There are think tanks that nurture and give safe haven to Republicans in transition. Until the mid-terms, Republicans had most of the governorships. There is a Federalist Society which during Republican administrations pretty much anoints members of the judiciary; most people who run for president are lawyers.
So, where is the next generation, the next Newt? Why aren't young turks who have been primping and posturing for at least the last eight years now dominating the discussion at this historic -- and predictable -- juncture?
I know the young, charismatic Republican thinkers are out there. I see at one almost every week on Bill Maher.