Republican presidential candidates (L-R) former U.S. Senator Rick Santorum (R-PA), former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney, former House Speaker Newt Gingrich and U.S. Rep. Ron Paul (R-TX)
Republican presidential candidates (L-R) former U.S. Senator Rick Santorum (R-PA), former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney, former House Speaker Newt Gingrich and U.S. Rep. Ron Paul (R-TX)

What on earth has happened to the Republican Party, the party of Abraham Lincoln, Teddy Roosevelt and Ronald Reagan? Since the departure of George W. Bush the party seems to have become the preserve of mediocrity at best and crankery at worst.

In 2008 the Republican Party put forward John McCain as its presidential candidate. McCain seemed decent enough, but one got the impression he thought being a Vietnam War veteran and not George W.Bush would be enough to get him elected. He failed to notice that this apparently attractive combination had been tried at the previous election by John Kerry without much success.

However it was not just his war record that McCain hoped would bring him to the Whitehouse but the selection of his vice-presidential candidate, Sarah Palin. Palin at once energised the campaign as something new and exciting but it did not take long for the media and the public to realise that she was, to put it politely, lacking in knowledge.

As if this were not bad enough Palin showed herself to be completely unfit for high office when she all of a sudden resigned as governor of Alaska midway through her term. Apparently this was due to the tide of ethics complaints against her but one might also conclude that the prospect of being a media and Tea Party superstar were somewhat more attractive than the drudgery of governorship in the frozen north.

The latest crop of Republican presidential possibles have in many ways emulated Palin by briefly promising to be a breath of fresh air before quickly shaming themselves.

For example Michele Bachmann emerged last year and at first appeared to be a kind of Sarah Palin with brains. Alas it turned out to not to be so when she claimed that hurricane Irene was God's reaction to the U.S. federal deficit. It was later claimed that she was joking but this clip will allow readers to decide for themselves.

Next up were Rick Perry and Herman Cain, with the former bearing a passing resemblance to Ronald Reagan and the latter promising to prove that conservative thought is not a "whites only" pastime.

Yet again though Republican hopes were dashed when Perry's "oops" moment proved him to be the kind of Texas fool that George W. Bush only pretended to be (the 43rd President was born in Connecticut). While accusations of sexual misconduct (all of which denied) undid Cain in a way that they sadly did not undo Bill Clinton in 1992.

Now only four Republican contenders remain and none of them appear to be destined for greatness.

Rick Santorum appears to appeal to only a very narrow section of American opinion and, while one does not wish to impose on private grief, his decision to take his stillborn baby home to meet the rest of the family might seem at the very least a little odd to a great number of people.

Ron Paul in some ways could be the best of the candidates in that he appears to be the most consistent, championing a small, low tax, libertarian government now as he has done since the beginning of time. But are his radically liberal views on drugs rather too much for a party that is supposed to represent (among other things) conservative values?

Newt Gingrich while possessing a formidable brain and political skills to match (he overturned a four decade long Democrat majority in the House of Representatives in 1994) clearly has questions about his own integrity both in his personal life and politically, what with him also facing ethics charges in the past.

Finally we come to the frontrunner Mitt Romney whose only real plus point is that he appears to be a competent businessman at a time of economic chaos. Other than that the only thing going for him is that he does not appear to be stupid, a crank or possibly lacking in integrity in the way the some of his rivals do or did.

Thus while Romney does not appear to be a bad candidate neither is he a great one. It will therefore be no surprise if Obama, who was being written off as a second Jimmy Carter a year or so ago, may find himself in the Oval office for a second term.