By David Siders
Published: Monday, Jan. 30, 2012 – 12:00 am | Page 1A
Last Modified: Monday, Jan. 30, 2012 – 6:57 am

Jon Fleischman, the conservative blogger, was brooding the other day on Facebook, underwhelmed by the presidential candidates he has left to choose from.

It’s “pretty alarming to me,” the former executive director of the California Republican Party wrote, “how dispassionate, or non-interested I am in this new battle for the Republican nomination between Mitt Romney and Newt Gingrich.”

For like-minded Republicans – a cheerless majority of the party in California, according to a recent poll – a virtual therapy session ensued.

One friend recommended a prescription for Xanax, another a vote for Ron Paul.

Joe Ludlow, who helps run a political action committee in Southern California, said to treat the election like exercise.

“It’s not fun for me, I may not like it, it may be painful,” Ludlow wrote. “However, failure means a miserable life 20 and 40 years from now. … Four more years of Obama is death.”

As in any election, determined and enthusiastic volunteers are still working hard for their choices. Paul, in particular, has a fervent base of support.

But Ludlow, whose preferred candidate is Romney, is among those who aren’t exactly inspired as hope fades for any alternative to the current field.

Of California’s likely Republican voters, 52 percent say they are unsatisfied with their presidential choices, according to a Public Policy Institute of California poll released last week. Fleischman, who supported Rick Perry before the Texas governor quit the race, thinks the number is even higher.

“Loyal Republicans,” he said, “are not likely to share with a pollster that they are unhappy with their choices.”

There are any number of reasons for Republicans to be unhappy with Romney, the former governor of Massachusetts, or Gingrich, the former House speaker. Fleischman calls them “the plutocrat” and “the genius.” He wishes for a Mitch Daniels or Jeb Bush.

Other Republicans blame the party’s sore feelings not on any one candidate, but on the prickliness of the campaign.

“When they start fighting over who hates illegal immigrants more, and beating each other up for capitalism and Bain Corp., just the general negativity, it’s going to turn off Republican voters,” said Matt David, who was former Utah Gov. Jon Huntsman’s campaign manager before Huntsman dropped out.

The longer it continues, David said, the more it will help Democrats in President Barack Obama’s re-election bid.

Even the most dour Republicans don’t want that.

“Don’t get me wrong,” Fleischman said. “Either Gingrich or Romney would be a better solution.”

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