It has really gotten out of hand.  It’s not even February of ’07, and we’re practically drowning in exploratory committees.  If this horrifying rumour is true, the race will have already entered its terminally silly phase (normally reserved for the period between South Carolina’s primary and the conventions that is also known as “the election year”).

It’s not as if the sheer mass of candidates has brought us any increase in quality.  Forget Munchkinland–we are on our way to Lilliputian levels of political stature (the candidates’ egos, however, are evidently Brobdingnagian in proportions).  When Obama spoke of the “smallness of our politics,” this was not what he had in mind, but it fits the scene pretty well. 

How many are there?  Last week I counted seventeen, and that’s still about right.  Let’s go over it again and marvel at the teeming crowd of unsuitable pole-climbers.  On the one side, you have HRC, Obama, Biden, Dodd, Edwards, Kucinich, Richardson, Vilsack and Mike Gravel (Mike who?).  What a crew!  Sharpton could always liven up the mix and bring us to an even ten.  On the other side, there is the Terrible Trio, naturally, plus Brownback, Hunter, Thompson and Huckabee.  Paul, Tancredo, Hagel, Pataki and Gingrich are also possible entrants (Paul’s exploratory committee seems to be very much on the tentative, exploratory side right now and not on the “I’m rolling out my campaign” side).  If all those listed jumped in, that would make for twenty-two.  Don’t Evan Bayh and Mark Warner feel silly for not running now?  Compared to some of the no-hopers out there, they are practically shoe-ins to at least get the VP nod.  If the field gets much bigger, the logistics of the early debates will be a major obstacle all their own.  Fortunately, except for the few fence-sitters already mentioned it would appear that we will be spared an additional wave of candidates.