Editor's note: Gloria Borger is a senior political analyst for CNN, appearing regularly on CNN's "The Situation Room," "AC360°," "John King, USA" and "State of the Union."
Washington (CNN) - In conversations with Republican strategists and officeholders, the importance of the upcoming election is never understated: Historic, some say. A must-win for the GOP. An election of great consequence for the nation.
All of which may be true. And all of which leads to the next question: Why are so many Republicans running - away from the race?
First, the obvious. Beating an incumbent president is not easy. Democratic President Jimmy Carter lost to Ronald Reagan, for instance, but that happened only after a divisive primary season within the Democratic Party. President Barack Obama won't have that problem. And while recent polls show an electorate that is unhappy and even depressed about the current state of affairs, Republicans remain unhappily untethered: A majority of GOP voters told CBS News/New York Times pollsters that no one on their current list of contenders is especially inspiring.
To make matters worse, that list continues to shrink before even coming into focus: Conservative Rep. Mike Pence of Indiana, no. South Dakota Sen. John Thune, no. Then Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour, the establishment's pol of choice, says no "fire in the belly" to run. Ex-Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee, who gave John McCain a headache in 2008, is dithering on a decision; ditto for Sarah Palin, who looks less and less like a candidate each day. And they're two of the most favorably rated in the GOP field, such as it is.
Meantime, Rep. Ron Paul of Texas is back for another try. (Really.) And Donald Trump fills the vacuum with daily bloviating about Obama's birth certificate. And angry, anti-establishment Republicans love it - for now.MORE
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