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No one seems to be really happy with this year’s field of Republican candidates for that party’s presidential nomination – except perhaps the Democrats.

The sudden rise, and equally sudden fall, of a succession of Republican front-runners is just one sign of the dissatisfaction of the Republican voters with this field of candidates.

In this, as in many other aspects of life, we can only make our choice among the options actually available. So Republican voters who want to be realistic need to understand that they are going to end up with qualms and nagging doubts about whomever they pick this time.

Not all voters want to be realistic, of course. Some voters, whether Democrats, Republicans or independents, treat elections as occasions to vent their emotions, rather than as a process to pick someone into whose hands to place the fate of the nation.

People who think this way tend to vote for someone they just happen to like, whether for personal or ideological reasons, and regardless of whether that candidate has any realistic chance of being elected.

The surprising support in the polls for Rep. Ron Paul seems to be of this sort. But does anyone seriously want to put the fate of this nation in the hands of a man who can casually brush aside the danger of nuclear weapons in the hands of Iran, the world’s leading sponsor of international terrorism?

Barring some astonishing surprise, the contest for the Republican nomination for president boils down to Mitt Romney versus Newt Gingrich. It is doubtful whether either of them is anyone’s idea of an ideal candidate or a model of consistency.

The fact that each of the short-lived front-runners in the Republican field gained that position by presenting themselves as staunch conservatives suggests that Republican voters may have been trying to avoid having to accept Mitt Romney, whose record as governor of Massachusetts produced nothing that would be regarded as a serious conservative achievement.

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