I don’t have a candidate yet. But I have a field.

The legacy media – the folks who in 2008 gloated openly about being “in the tank for Obama” while their viewers and readers melted away before our eyes – tells us that the Republican presidential field is horribly weak, unknown, uninspiring. Already, I hear plenty of Republicans agreeing.

Those same Republicans agreed with the media that Bob Dole was “the only electable Republican candidate in 1996,” a mantra we heard unendingly…until Dole clinched the nomination and the exact same pundits instantly adopted the exact opposite position. They bought similar lines about Giuliani and McCain in 2008.

The first rule of success surely must be this: don’t take advice from people who hate you.

Legacy media preaches that conservatives are “extremists,” and “the fringe of the Republican Party.”

Gallup, however, tells a different story. Conservatives outnumber liberals in America by more than two-to-one, 42% to 20%. Not only that, Reagan conservatives make up 70% of the GOP, while self-identified liberals are just 3%. And the most conservative group of candidates in modern history won a record-shattering numbers of seats in 2010, with the enthusiastic support of two-thirds of America’s independents.

It seems almost superfluous to note that while Reagan conservatism won 49 states in 1984; the watered-down sort has won significantly less, and yet no Democrat has won more than 32 states in modern times.

What is not superfluous is that conservatives consistently refuse to turn out for candidates they don’t trust (Ford ’76, Bush ’92, Dole ’96, McCain ’08), and after the Republican implosion of 2006-08 and the Tea Party revolution of 2010, “not turning out” is less a possibility than a third party split.

So if we were now re-running the 2008 primary field, I might agree with the media. But we’re not.

Indeed, this is the best field of our lifetimes. And it’s time to realize it, and get excited.

Ignore the outliers: Mitt Romney, the media-anointed “front-runner”, a dead man walking unless he can swallow his gargantuan pride and convincingly renounce what Tim Pawlenty has called “ObamneyCare”; and Ron Paul, whose positions on defense and inability to smile ensure his permanent marginal status in the GOP. Both will prove non-factors, though either would be vastly superior to Barack Obama or many Republican nominees past.

If what we need is commitment to principle, we’ve never had better. The candidate with the most liberal record in the field – Romney – swears on stacks of Bibles that he’s one of us. The rest of the field doesn’t have to: their records are clear enough.

If what we need is articulate spokesmen, well, the entire field is light years beyond George W. Bush (as my wife might say, “bless his heart”). And if what we need is passion, just listen to Herman Cain or Sarah Palin; but honestly, in this group, only Tim Pawlenty seems truly subdued.

If it’s dynamic new approaches we need, this is your year. Here, Pawlenty leads the pack with his economic plan, headlined by a long-needed goal not just for deficit-reduction-this or spending-reduction-that but for an actual U.S. economic growth target of 5% per year and an actual plan to achieve it! If America hopes just to stay even with China and India in this century, it must grow and stretch in ways it hasn’t in decades, but our politicians in both parties accept relative decline as “inevitable”. History teaches it’s anything but, and Pawlenty’s plan actually calls us to the fight.
He’s not alone, by the way. Does anyone doubt that Newt Gingrich is the most brilliant political leader of our time, if perhaps one of the most prone to foot-in-mouth disease? The others will impress as well.

Maybe it’s experience we need, or at least more experience than a community organizer. Michele Bachmann, leader of the House Tea Party Caucus, is one of the nation’s leading tax attorneys, a successful business owner, the mother of five and foster mother of 23 children. Herman Cain played a key role in the defeat of HillaryCare in the 1990s, led Godfather’s Pizza out of bankruptcy to great success, and was chairman of the Federal Reserve Bank of Kansas City. Rick Santorum, after two terms in the U.S. Senate, is one of the nation’s top thinkers on Islamofascism and foreign policy. And Rick Perry comes with all the benefits of Mitt Romney and none of the socialize medicine.

But they’re unknown, you say. Yes, but after a bruising nominating process, the winner’s name ID will be 100%, and frankly, given Republicans’ nasty history of nominating the next guy in line, a field of unknowns running a toss-up race gives us a first-in-our-lifetime chance to have a real debate among great candidates, and pick the best nominee instead of the latest “anointed one.”

Will any of them be Ronald Reagan? No. But it’s time to stop waiting for Godot. We needed Ronald Reagan once, when our best Congressional leaders were “Rockefeller Republicans” (today’s RINOs) and when no one imagined a Republican majority was possible in their lifetime. Today we need hundreds of Reagans, working in concert and remaking everything they touch.

That’s what we elected in 2010. That’s what we must elect in 2012. And pin up a picture of this presidential field, throw a dart at it, and whoever it hits will be a leader who can take up the mantle and lead them.

This is truly, finally our year.

Rod D. Martin, founder of The Vanguard Project, is a leading futurist, technology entrepreneur and conservative activist from Destin, Florida. He was part of PayPal.com’s pre-IPO startup team, serving as special counsel to founder and CEO Peter Thiel, and also served as policy director to former Governor Mike Huckabee. He is president of the National Federation of Republican Assemblies (NFRA), a member of the Council for National Policy, and serves on numerous nonprofit and for-profit boards.