With a Republican caucus and a primary behind us in 2012, what have we learned? Well, to be honest, nothing significant. Although we've probably deciphered that its Romney's nomination to lose, the race is far from over. After all, we've got almost 5 months to mull over these candidates (though the winner is usually clear before then.)
I spent my first half of January listening to political podcasts, tracking poll numbers, nabbing bits and pieces of live stream debates, and of course watching the prcincts report in for the Iowa and New Hampshire contests. At first I was filled with excitement for each contest, and I had felt wonder concerning the destination.
Today, I'm not so optimistic. Front runner Romney has his views while running for the nomination, then a slightly different stance for the general election, and finally a new perspective altogether if he were to be elected president. Romney demonstrated this confusing dichotomy in New Hampshire when stating that he would usher in a "smaller and smarter government," and then immediately after said we would have a military unchallengable in the world. I think that accurately illustrates the difficulty in knowing anything about Romney.
While Newt Gingrich is interesting to me, he carries a good deal of baggage and then stops to heap on more every day. The public has had decades to carefully mull over his voting record, lobbying, personal missteps, and also his day to day gaffes. However, he's intelligent, and there's noone I would rather listen to debate. Although oratory isn't everything, its a powerful tool when running for president, and one the current president uses well. Winning the general election will undoubtedly require someone who can command debates when the time comes.
Santorum and Perry seem hardly worth mentioning as the first wants to continually show America's power to the world while outlawing homosexual acts. Santorum also made a campaign pledge to go to war with Iran. Although war with Iran may prove inevitable, I've never heard of a candidate promising to go to war as part of a campaign pledge. The latter, Mr. Perry, wants to re-invade Iraq. Yes, you did read that right, re-invade Iraq.
Last, but not least, is the ideologically consistent representative Ron Paul. Paul is smart, educated, honest, and probably the only true conservative that would slash the federal deficit in a way that matters (I say this because no other GOP candidate will touch defense.) Although Ron Paul is respected and consistent, he is not a good orator. Paul's ideas are often difficult to summarize, and when given 30 to 60 seconds to describe his position in a debate, he often falters and doesn't resonate with the public.
Although polls show Paul matching up relatively closely against Obama in a general election, it is impossible to know how those numbers would look after the two sparred in a number of debates. It would be foolish to not concede the advantage to Obama on this one. Regardless of whether you agree with Ron Paul or not, few can argue that a Ron Paul nomination would be one of the most interesting election years in history.
Although every candidate has flaws, its hard to not see the current field as being weak. One wonders if a president with 8 or 9 percent unemployment and a skyrocketing deficit would have had a chance at reelection in any other election cycle. Many fiscal conservatives like myself are terrified of what another Obama presidency would mean for a 15 trillion dollar deficit on the verge of multiplying. One step should be taken at a time, and that first step is to choose the right nominee. Let's choose carefully.