By the time this post is published the results in New Hampshire will be all but complete. Mitt Romney wins (38% currently), followed by Ron Paul (23%), Jon Huntsman (17%), Rick Santorum/Newt Gingrich (or perhaps Newt Gingrich/Rick Santorum) (10% each). Rick Perry seems to have fully imploded, with only 1% in the Granite State primary, though his focus has been on South Carolina. Still, I would like to review some of the pros and cons for each of the candidates, and issue a true horserace endorsement.
Let me first stipulate that each of the remaining Republican candidates would be preferable to another four years of the stumbling imperial presidency. From anti-constitutional recess appointments to profligate spending and ever-enlarging seas of red ink, from turning federal agencies like the EPA and IRS into the imperial storm troopers of liberal ends to agenda-driven perversions of justice, through vote-buying with taxpayer funded giveaways, the U.S. really can't afford another four years of Mr. Obama's ideological vision of America. The candidate that is eventually chosen to face Mr. Obama simply must beat Mr. Obama.
Second, I think it is incumbent upon Republicans to come up with a candidate who articulates an inclusive and welcoming vision, but notably without embracing the divisions - race, class, gender, etc. - into which the left wishes to divide America. The left wants social justice, and apparently that is different from rule-of-law justice. The left wants to divide into groups then pander to each group. The candidate needs to expand on an America that gives opportunity to all, fully, but most importantly equally as individuals.
Third, I've been awfully disappointed in the nature of the attacks on Mitt Romney lately. Ronald Reagan and his 11th commandment are rolling over in their graves. For a long time I was quite proud of Newt Gingrich for refusing to attack any other Republican, always focusing his attacks on the President. If you're going to try to elevate your primary support, the argument against Mr. Romney ought to be over the Massachusetts healthcare reform as governor, and not over his work in the private sector. Tonight Rick Perry called it "vulture capitalism." Shameful.
I'd like to say that there is one candidate who embodies everything I'm looking for as November 2012 looms in the not terribly distant future. There isn't. Mr. Perry hasn't shown himself to be solid enough as a speaker, and solid enough as a debater that I would feel confident that he can compete in that biggest contest. I think he entered the race for the wrong reasons - primarily because others thought he should. He needed to do a lot more homework, a lot more preparation before taking this leap.
Mr. Romney's flaw is primarily that Massachusetts healthcare reform. Recall, I'm a doctor whose office used to be in Massachusetts and is now in New Hampshire. But I still operate in Massachusetts, and I see the problems with this law. It is - marginally - better than ObamaCare, but the architect of Romney's is the same left-wing MIT economist that consulted with the administration and pushed ObamaCare regularly in the pages of the New England Journal of Medicine. Mitt Romney needed to come up with a better solution to that problem than he has; he is not, as a result, the best spokesman against Mr. Obama's signature legislation.
Mr. Huntsman infuriated me by doing something I listed above as a no-no, parroting the liberal line on global warming/climate change. "Listen to the scientists?" Does he mean the ones shown to be committing academic malpractice in the climategate emails? Does this mean the EPA can kill the capitalist golden goose unilaterally? He's also a little too isolationist internationally. Pulling all the troops home is desireable, but not at the cost of American security. Still, he has a reasonable economic policy outline, perhaps the best one.
That said, his foreign policy views are far more conservative than Mr. Paul's. Ron Paul may be very conservative with domestic fiscal policy, but the pure libertarianism of the rest of his package is a non-starter. And he definitely needs a better explanation of his newsletters. I don't think he's electable in a general election, and I'm not alone in that assessment.
Mr. Gingrich has a number of problems, not least of which is that he was effectively Palin-ized during the 1990's by the liberal media and Democrats (BIRM). He was the "Gin-grinch" that stole Christmas, remember? There are a lot of people that won't vote for him because they remember that false caricature. And that loveseat shot with Nancy Pelosi discussing global warming/climate change? Ugh. To his credit he has renounced that previous stand.
Mr. Santorum is against big government, except when he's for it. And unfortunately he seems to be for it mostly for social causes, which are down the list of my priorities for the next four years. I don't like his debating style, as he begins every answer with a recitation of his credentials. And he has been less good at attacking Mr. Obama than at attacking his Republican friends.
But you've got to go somewhere. To win, I'll take Newt Gingrich, and hope that he's able to overcome the various albatrosses hung around his neck. He's the sharpest debater, and with his time as speaker is very good at making the media uncomfortable when they would rather make him uncomfortable. He'll make Mr. Obama very uncomfortable too. To place, I'll take Mitt Romney. ObamaCare notwithstanding, Mr. Romney is more conservative than you have been led to believe; it's reasonable to argue that much of Mr. Romney's supposedly liberal stances in the past were the actual political posturing, running as he was in Massachusetts and against Ted Kennedy. For show, it's Jon Huntsman. Hey, he played keyboards in a rock band growing up, you gotta like that. But please, modify that stance on climate change to at least recognize that the Climate-gate scandals may be problematic.
You may have heard that the Union-Leader endorsed Mr. Gingrich. Here's a snippet.
We sympathize with the many people we have heard from, both here and across the country, who remain unsure of their choice this close to the primary. It is understandable. Our nation is in peril, yet much of the attention has been focused on fluff, silliness and each candidate's minor miscues...
Readers of the Union Leader and Sunday News know that we don't back candidates based on popularity polls or big-shot backers. We look for conservatives of courage and conviction who are independent-minded, grounded in their core beliefs about this nation and its people, and best equipped for the job.