The candidates I’d support for President, in order of preference, with candid evaluations of each campaign:
8) Ron Paul: Paul is serious about the Constitution, getting spending under control, and paring back government. So, there are some things to like about him. However, he’s a Libertarian, not a conservative, his foreign policy views are way out of step with the mainstream, he has some extremely radical views, he’s not very likable, and I tend to think that even if every factor broke his way, Obama would still beat him in the end by at least 10 points.
7) Jon Huntsman: He’s not a conservative, not particularly likable, and he’s surrounded himself with advisers like John Weaver who are actively hostile to the conservative movement. It doesn’t matter how much he tries to cater to the base in the primary, there’s absolutely nothing he can say at this point to change most voters’ minds about him.
6) Rick Santorum: I’ve actually gained respect for Rick Santorum during his presidential run. He comes across as principled, knowledgable, and genuinely concerned about the country. However, he’s run a very negative campaign, he often comes across as excessively combative, and he’s not particularly likable. For that reason, I don’t think he could win barring a total collapse of the Obama campaign.
5) Mitt Romney: I didn’t like Romney much as a candidate in 2008 and I don’t like him now. Although he’s competent, organized, a good debater, and an excellent fundraiser, he’s not a conservative, not likable; he’s “average” in electability at best, he’s pro-future bailouts, his signature achievement, Romneycare, was a failure and he doesn’t seem to have any core values. Would he be better than Obama? Sure, since Obama is practically guaranteed to always do the wrong thing while Romney will probably do the right thing on at least a few issues.
However, it’s almost impossible to get excited about the idea of Romney becoming President because he’s so inconsistent and wishy-washy in his views that you really won’t know where he’ll stand on any issue until he actually gets elected. Politicians like Charlie Crist, Arnold Schwarzenegger, and Mitt Romney almost inevitably turn out to be enormous disappointments to conservatives once they’re elected; so if he’s the nominee, it would definitely be a “lesser of two evils” election.
4) Herman Cain: I considered Herman Cain to be a legit contender from Day 1, but I’m not as high on his candidacy as a lot of other people have been.
I think his 9-9-9 plan couldn’t pass Congress and I also think it would go from being a popular asset to him in the primary to a big liability in the general election. By the time the election rolls around, my guess is that his 9-9-9 plan would be polling in the thirties and since it’s so closely identified with him, that would hurt a lot.
The sexual harassment allegations are also damaging because a big part of the reason conservatives like him so much is that he’s extremely likable and seemed to have no baggage. The allegations struck at both of those pillars of his popularity.
His biggest problem, however, is that he’s a mistake-prone political novice who, for reasons that mystify me, is refusing to bone up on certain subjects like foreign policy. We’re less than two months out from the start of the primaries and Cain’s still whiffing on Foreign Policy 101 questions that he should have known the answers to back when he was a talk show host.
Cain’s charismatic, he’s likable, he’s conservative, his business experience is appealing, his 9-9-9 plan would be great for the country — it’s easy to see why he has so many diehard supporters. But, if he wants to be President, he needs to convince people he’s done his homework in a hurry.
3) Michele Bachmann: Bachmann’s big problems have been that she’s too negative and worse yet, can’t stay on message. If you already have a reputation for being a bomb throwing Tea Partier, you should tone it down during the primaries to reassure people that you also have the measured demeanor to be President. Instead, she went way over-the-top about Gardasil, building a wall on every square inch of the border, and never allowing the debt ceiling to go up. That’s a shame because Bachmann is a strong movement conservative, she has a great personal story, and she’s genuinely charismatic. It would be easy to get excited about having “President Bachmann,” but unfortunately she’s low on cash and did enough damage to herself during her time at the top that she probably won’t get a second look from primary voters.
2) Rick Perry: Perry has a great organization, plenty of money, a great record in Texas to run on, and I think he’d govern conservatively. He even shored up his position on illegal immigration enough to satisfy people on the issue. So, there’s a lot to like about Perry.
However, his campaign has been way too negative, some of his debate performances have been excruciatingly bad, and his campaign generally hasn’t been setting the world on fire. Perry is the natural “Mitt Romney alternative,” but the base has been so unimpressed by his campaign that his numbers have plunged. I tend to think a lot of Perry’s performance woes have been a result of getting in the race late. If that’s true, then he may still have time to up his game and prove to people that he has the political acumen to beat Obama. Despite his flaws, I would still feel very good about having Rick Perry as our nominee and could get excited about him being President.
1) Newt Gingrich: Contrary to reports you may have heard, Newt didn’t tell his wife he wanted a divorce while she was recovering from cancer surgery, but he did commit adultery before he converted to Catholicism. Furthermore, although I do consider Newt to be a movement conservative, he’s far from pure. He’s supported bad ideas on occasion and sometimes he seems to have out-thought himself by making questionable moves because he convinced himself it was the politically smart way to go. So, flaws? Newt has ‘em.
That being said, Goldwater, Reagan, and Gingrich are the three politicians who’ve done the most for conservatism over the last 50 years. Gingrich was responsible for the GOP takeover of the House, the Contract with America, and America’s balanced budget during the nineties. So, if you want someone who’s genuinely conservative and has actually managed to get right-of-center legislation passed in D.C., as opposed to just sitting on the sidelines saying, “Nope, not good enough,” Newt’s your guy.
Newt’s conservative, he’s just as electable as anyone else running, he’s easily the most qualified person to do the job, and I’d actually be very excited to have Newt Gingrich as President. That’s why if I absolutely had to pick a candidate today, Newt would be the one I’d like to see get the nomination, although Perry would be a very close second.