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December 28, 2011

Thoughts on the GOP Field

I follow the William F Buckley Jr rule when selectinng which candidate I will back. He said that we should

Nominate the most conservative candidate who is electable

or words to that effect. I also follow the Ronald Reagan rule which says that

That person who agrees with you 80 percent of the time is a friend and an ally; not a 20 percent traitor

In other words, I'm not interested in pure ideology. Sure, they need to be as conservative as is possible. But I'm not going to back a "pure" conservative who is a sure loser over an 80 percent conservative who has a good chance of winning. I've done local politics for too long to retain any pie-in-the-sky idealism. Involvement has given me quite a hard head and sense of realism about it all. I don't waste my time anymore working for "pure" candidates who are doomed to lose.

With that in mind, my favorite for the Republican nomination is...

Mitt Romney - ...is my favorite. You probably guessed that from the above, but maybe not. To be sure, he has his faults. His Massachusetts health care plan is disturbingly like Obamacare, and he refuses to back off key parts of it. He's a very late convert to most aspects of the conservative agenda, and is notorious for these flip-flops. On the plus side, he at least gives somewhat reasonable explanations for them, unlike Newt Gingrich. He's a good family man, morally and ethically upright, a fantastic manager, won't embarrass us by saying stupid things, is not vain or self-centered, and will do generally conservative things. Ramesh Ponnuru has the best article on why Romney's the one to support.

Newt Gingrich - Conservatives owe a debt of gratitude to Gingrich for leading us out of what seemed like permanent minority status to our takeover of the House in 1994. This is no small matter, and as such he has a spot reserved for him in the Republican/conservative hall of fame. But this does not mean he is qualified to be president. Former New Hampshire John Sununu called him "nconsistent, erratic, untrustworthy and unprincipled." He's almost as big a flip-flopper as Romney, as witness this 2008 video of him defending the individual mandate for healthcare. Mark Steyn has perhaps the best takedown of Newt, but the editors of National Review do a pretty good job in their piece as well. In short, though, Gingrich is every bit as vain as Obama, with all that implies. He was a terrible leader when he was Speaker and was forced out in 1998 by the conservatives. Most of his ideas are good but many are half-baked. He also has more scandals in his background than all of the other candidates put together (true or not is irrelevant because they'll be trotted out ad nauseum). All of these faults have combined to see him drop in the polls as of the past few days.

Rick Santorum - His star appears to be waxing while Gingrich's wanes. I like him for his policy positions, but you can't run for president having lost your last senate race. His ideas sound good, but fair or not his boyish looks always make him appear to be less than serious. He just doesn't seem to have the right stuff. It's a shame, but see "hardheaded" above.

Ron Paul - A kook. His followers are worse. 'nuff said.

Rick Perry - He was once the flavor of the day, but it quickly became clear that he's not ready for prime time, and probably never will be.

Michelle Bachmann - I like her for her ideology but you need to have been elected to more than just a than just a house district before you can run for president. More, fair or not she comes across as too extreme and would scare the soccer moms. Two people can say the same thing but in different ways; one will come across as reasonable and the other as wild-eyed. It's not the policy, it's how you say it.

Jon Huntsman - He is actually more conservative than most people think, but in a moment of monumental stupidity decided to create an image of himself as a moderate.

In the end, Romney will most likely get the nomination. He is steady and patient, and will not say anything stupid that will sink his nomination. His organization is first-rate, and as an activist myself I know that this counts for a lot more than most people think. It's not by accident that he got on the ballot in Virginia (notorious for having a tough process, especially this year) while the others (except Paul, whose followers are more fanatics than anything) did not.

Can Romney win against Obama? It'll be close, but he stands the best chance of anyone. And anyone from the Republican party would be better than Obama. My prediction is that he picks someone from the Tea Party wing of the party to shore up the right, someone like Marco Rubio, Jim DeMint, or even Ken Cuccinelli (Attorney General-VA). If he does, he'll be a formidable opponent, and the Democrats will have a real fight on their hands.

Posted by Tom at December 28, 2011 8:00 PM

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