Never in memory have so many presidential hopefuls plunged this early before an election year into the money chase to put themselves on the path to the White House. And for whatever reason, all of them are Republicans.

The latest to announce an "exploratory committee" is Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, close disciple of a failed GOP presidential nominee, Sen. John McCain of Arizona, and the nearest thing to a clone of the war hawk in the Senate.


Although President Obama will not be on the ballot, his foreign policy is certain to be a centerpiece of the 2016 election debate. Mr. Graham would add a strong voice to the Republicans' primary-state debates on the ongoing Middle East crisis.

He shares Mr. McCain's deep opposition to Mr. Obama's measured responses to Iran's pursuit of a nuclear weapon, to the repressive regime of Syrian dictator Bashar al-Assad, and to the emergent Islamic State. The other GOP contenders would be hard pressed to match his intensity against them.

The field is already overcrowded, and inflated by the musings of the glaringly unqualified Sarah Palin, who threatens to repeat her 2008 floundering as Mr. McCain's running mate in one of the most irresponsible choices in vice-presidential history.

The reason so many low-wattage Republicans are lining up to fight for the Republican presidential nomination may be the fact that no senior party officeholder is on hand to claim it's his turn for the prize, as Mr. McCain did in 2008 and Mitt Romney did in 2012.

More than a dozen Republicans have signaled their interest, of whom only Mr. Romney, who has now withdrawn, and former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush have the national political base or reputation to stand out from the pack.

The GOP plethora is in sharp contrast to the scarcity in the opposing party, where only former first lady and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton is poised to accept coronation by the Democratic Party.

Neither Vice President Joe Biden, who clearly would like to be president and justifiably could claim it to be his "turn" to be the nominee, nor freshman Sen. Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts, who many liberals want to run, are likely to take on Ms. Clinton. A longshot is former Maryland Gov. Martin O'Malley, who appears to be in the same boat as Mr. Biden — hoping for an unexpected decision by Ms. Clinton not to run.

So the country seems destined to witness an interminable Republican intramural scramble over which of the many political eager-beavers can mobilize the strongest, most influential and richest backers for the nomination.

The multiple candidate debates that lead up and into the state primaries are akin to the trench warfare of World War I, so the political battlefield is likely to be strewn with casualties well before the Republican National Convention in July 2016. Meanwhile, absent the unexpected, only Ms. Clinton's own missteps would bar a waltz to her coronation that summer.

One notable development for the crowded and competitive field is the disclosure that the well-heeled conservative Koch brothers are planning an unprecedented, astounding $889 million campaign war-chest for the 2016 election cycle. That would be more than twice the Republican National Committee's spending in the 2012 cycle.

In other words, on the Republican side of the battleground at least, there probably will be more candidates and more money behind them collectively than in any previous presidential campaign. If all this means greater voter turnout for the primary season and then for the general election, that would be fine.

But turnout in presidential elections has been dismal. For nearly half a century, it has been below 60 percent of the American voting age population. The last time it exceeded that level, and 60.8 percent, was in 1968 for the race in which Richard Nixon barely defeated Hubert Humphrey.

According to the American Voting Project at the University of California Santa Barbara, turnout dropped from 58.2 percent in 2008 to 54.8 percent in 2012, and voting in the primaries is historically even lower. So for all the early hoopla about candidate interest in seeking the White House, on the Republican side anyway, these statistics don't say much about public responsibility these days toward the whole circus.

Jules Witcover is a syndicated columnist and former long-time writer for The Baltimore Sun. His latest book is "Joe Biden: A Life of Trial and Redemption" (William Morrow). His email is