I have been watching the GOP primaries with a lot of attention, the political junkie that I am. With Nevada and South Carolina this Saturday, we are drawing to the end of the "retail " segment where candidates can spend a lot of face time with potential voters.
Call this an endorsement or not, here are my observations on the candidates so far:
- Rudi Guilliani. He has been out of the limelight, choosing to make a stand in Florida and Super Tuesday, letting the other candidates use up cash fighting each other. This could be a brilliant move or will backfire, depending on how he does in Florida and on Feburary 5th. It is plausible that he comes out of the February 5th primaries with the delegate lead, but that remains to be seen. In terms of the debates and substance, he has done OK overall. He emphasizes his executive accomplishments, explains his liberal social views in a way that is non-threatening, while acknowledging that people with views outside of his have valid concerns. He has tried to address them without flip-flopping or out and out pandering. As to my opinion, while I have some concerns on this matter, specifically 2nd ammendment issues, I think Rudy overall has made himself an acceptable candidate. I think that he may become the compromise nominee.
- Mike Huckabee. Yes, he is charming, engaging, and funny at times. He just rubs me the wrong way though. I do not trust him on policy issues - as I think he is a Christian nanny stater. His views on immigration, education, taxes, smoking, foreign policy and federalism are anathema to traditional conservatives. His fair tax proposal is pie in the sky and will not work with a federal government the size it is. Now, if you want to bring the scope of the federal government back to where it was in 1913, it would work, and I would wholeheartedly support that. But with the welfare state as it is - the fair tax will not work. He is unaceptable as the nominee and a Huckabee candidacy would be Jimmy Carter redux.
- Mitt Romney. Mitt has the policies right, but his presentation is in some ways is offsetting. You would think that he would have won Iowa and New Hampshire, but somehow he has not closed the deal with primary voters - which would indicate some skepticism. I think some of this can be addressed with better communications. He has the resources to lead the delegate count after February 5th, but he has his work cut out for him. Right now, he is the de facto establishment candidate within the party. He would be an acceptable candidate, and would be a good president, but needs to do more to address concerns amongst the electorate.
- Ron Paul. He is interesting to say the least. He has had the opportunity to be the figurehead of the libertarian wing of the GOP, but has thrown that out the window with his "blame America first" musings. His defense of federalism and limited government is solid, but his explanations of his isolationist tendencies come off as bitter. He could have made a more positive argument on why isolationism works. That, and his support from neo-nazis and other questionable relationships leaves him as a fringe candidate. He had an opportunity to start a real movement within the party, but has proven he is not the leader for libertarianism within the party. The GOP could use that as a counterweight to the big government Republicans in the party. Obviously, he is unacceptable as a candidate.
- John McCain. He is infuriating to the party base. While nobody questions his patriotism and credentials on national security, his personality and record on domestic issues have put off large segments of the GOP electorate. His embrace of anmesty, campaign finance reform, global warming hysteria, and agnosticism on taxes. What makes it worse is they way he demonizes those who disagree with him on policy - this is particularly annoying. His ill temperment and his embrace of many liberal policies will make it difficult to gain delegates in closed primary states.
- Fred Thompson. I think Fred is the total package in terms of policy and presentation. He articulates conservative principles forcefully and in a folksy, easy to understand manner. His problem is that he started too late and his campagin has fumbled to maximize their opportunities.
UPDATE: Well Fred has dropped out - so much for my endorsement! Now the question is who the bedrock conservatives go to - Mitt, Rudy, or McCain?