Only those closest to Donald Trump will ever know whether his dancing around the edges of running for President was anything more than a publicity stunt.  He said some pretty far out things, but he also said a lot of things we aren’t used to hearing from a potential presidential nominee.  Perhaps it’s because he knew he’d never be running and had nothing to lose, or because he doesn’t have a politicians view of the world.  Nonetheless, the Donald is out.

Interesting, though not surprising, was Mike Huckabee’s departure from the race.  Actually, departure isn’t the right term as Huckabee never gave a clue one way or the other whether he’d actually join the race.  Huckabee was given the benefit of a stellar race for the nomination in 2008 that surprised a lot of people.  Huckabee’s likeable demeanor and strong conservative values made him a predictable front-runner for the 2012 nomination.  But Huckabee has found a post-Governorship life in television and radio, is building a new home in Florida, so even if the signs weren’t noticed, they were always there.

Without a Huckabee in the race, with his likability and Trump with his outrageousness, the remainder of the field looks rather uninspiring.  Romney isn’t generating much passion, and I can’t say that surprises me.  Romney has all the strong business appeal of a Trump with none of the likeability of a Huckabee.  This isn’t to say that Romney isn’t the front-runner with Huckabee out, cause clearly he is, but it the hill he must climb in 2012 is much steeper than in 2008 with the passage of Obamacare.

Will either Huckabee or Trump endorse another candidate?  Trump will definitely back someone at some point; there’s no downside for him.  Huckabee, on the other hand, probably will keep his powder dry for a number of reasons.  First of all he’s got a television show on Fox and he needs to maintain a modicum of balance.  Secondly there will be another opportunity in 2016 if the Republicans bungle 2012.  Could this be Huckabee’s way of saying he doesn’t want to face Obama and waiting till 2016 means he can face an open field?  Who knows.

The Republicans find themselves in a very tough position with the field dwindling around them.  There remains more question marks than answers at this point: will Daniels join the race and immediately become a top-tier candidate?  Will Michelle Bachmann decide to take a shot?  Will Sarah Palin decide the field is so weak she has no choice, even though she doesn’t seem to exhibit any desire?  At this point the Republicans have to hope for a dark-horse candidate to emerge.

Newt already seems to be getting himself in hot water (which, by-the-way, I wholeheartedly agree with his statement,) so given his high negatives this may be a quick undoing of his candidacy.

Herman Cain still remains as a bit of an unknown, although he seems to be gaining a bit of traction.  Ultimately his biggest challenge as an outsider will be building the political machine necessary to round up votes in the first several contests, Iowa, New Hampshire and South Carolina.

John Huntsman seems to have a lot of support inside the Beltway, though he’s a complete unknown to the general public.  If he runs, which seems likely, it may be too late to generate the recognition necessary before the end of the year.

Ron Paul can be as engaging as humanly possible, and though his libertarian views might be able to garner a nomination in the Libertarian Party, there is simply no hope he’ll gain anything than a lot of money and television time from this endeavor.

Things are looking rather bleak for the conservatives, which gives Mr. Obama much to be pleased about.  He has to be more concerned with the unknowns than the knowns and the knowns right now are about who has bowed out and Mitt Romney.  He’s chomping at the bit to run against Romney because Mr. Obama’s greatest weakness is also Mr. Romney’s, specifically healthcare, assuming Mr. Obama is blessed with a strong upturn in the economy over the next 17 months.

Right now the best hope is a maturing of an existing candidate, or the emergence of a second or third-tier player, such as a Herman Cain.  Beating an incumbent requires a strong romance when at the moment the Republican field looks more like a one-night stand.