So...it's way early to start talking about the Republican primary for President, and yet, in a lot of ways, it's way too late. I was thinking about this - how four years ago, I was already on staff with a Prez Candidate. The Iowa Straw Poll is in August, and the Caucuses are in January.
I don't think it's too late for people to jump in the race, but it's getting there...
I watched the debate on CNN tonight, although I was flipping back and forth between that and ABC Family's "Switched at Birth." I don't currently have any deep passion for any of the candidates, although I've basically settled on Tim Pawlenty, since I have good friends working for and supporting him. I have no real problems with him, which frankly, is kind of what I'm looking for in a candidate. Bill O'Reilly recently criticized Gov. Pawlenty as being "vanilla", which is sort of true. That said...I like the idea of "vanilla." Boring and competent would make me happy. In 2008 we elected a rockstar, and look where that got us. We now have a Teleprompter President who is completely out of his league. T-Paw may not make young women faint or Chris Matthews get tingles up his leg, but he strikes me as knowing what he's doing, which is clearly a great improvement over what we have now.
That said, I'll go through the other candidates and potentials.
Herman Cain - seems like a good guy, and a very competent businessman, but no government experience. Much as we'd like government to be run more efficiently, and possibly by someone who has had to be concerned about profit margin, retaining customers, etc..., the fact remains that government simply doesn't function that way. You can't just hire and fire people in government the way you can in business, the President (by and large) can't just make things happen the way a CEO can, etc... The way government works can be a pain in the neck some times (ok, a lot of the time). But I want someone who understands that and can navigate it, and I'm not certain that Cain does.
Michelle Bachmann - I think she's trying to be Sarah Palin 2.0. I've heard way too much about her having problems keeping staff (which says a lot about a person), and basically she just gets on my nerves. I've heard some inside baseball stories that turn me off, too. I'll not repeat them here, but suffice it to say I have it on fairly reliable authority that Michelle Bachmann is all about Michelle Bachmann. Sure, a healthy ego is necessary to even think about running for office, but self-absorbed narcissists aren't what we need. Also, she's kind of a newbie on the political front as well. She needs a little more experience, a little more maturing, maybe a little more...mentoring...from someone who's been around the block.
Mitt Romney - supposedly the frontrunner. I think his front runner status is due almost entirely to "name ID" rather than high-level policy preferences on the part of the electorate. Everybody's already heard of Mitt Romney, and it's well-known in political/campaign science that when it's a long time until the election, or the issues aren't particularly controversial, people tend to vote (or respond in a poll) for the person they've heard of over the person they haven't. I think as Pawlenty and the others get out there more, Romney's numbers will drop. Maybe he really will eventually end up with the nomination, but he hasn't won it yet. As for my personal opinion of Romney - I think he's slimy. Every time I've heard him speak, every time I've ever shaken his hand, I've felt the need to take a shower immediately afterward. There's just something about him that's ... ick.
Newt Gingrich - love him. I would love him for a history professor. The dude is freaking smart. I think he really loves America, and he's a great historian. When he gets passionate, he's so fun to hear and to be around. He's smiley and fun and warm and, like I said, really freaking smart. But I don't think I want him to be President. He's got a ton of political and personal baggage, such that I'm not sure he could even get elected.
Rick Santorum - a really great guy. Really. But his time has come and gone, I believe. That, and his Iowa staff leaves, uh, something to be desired. At least in my eyes.
Ron Paul - crazy. Enough said.
Sarah Palin - Alright, here's the only thing I'm going to say about her (unless she somehow ends up with the nomination, in which case I'm sure I'll have more to add...). I really like her. I think she's a good person, smart, talented, and would have made a great VP under McCain. That said, the press has absolutely murdered her, and she has not handled it well. She is great at raising money, great at firing up the base. But she needs better "handlers." She needs somebody to prep her for the tough interviews, and then tell her to go in there and "git'erdone!" But the media is never going to show anything but utter contempt for her. There are plenty of people floating around elected office of all levels who are dumb, rude, incompetent, undeserving, etc...who have never been treated with the sheer awfulness that Sarah Palin has. Granted, her poor "handling" has not helped the situation. But the bottom line is that she is everything feminism ever wanted...and she votes the wrong way. She is hot, and her husband is hot. She was elected to the governorship of the largest state in the union, and then nominated for vice-president. She has a great job and great kids, and a husband who quit his job to avoid a her having a conflict-of-interest in her own. She can nurse a child while running a state, she can hunt moose and cheer on her kid's hockey team without wrecking her manicure. She can do interviews with cable news networks in her kitchen while preparing dinner, with her husband sitting at the table holding and feeding the baby. She makes her kids take responsibility for their actions, but also knows when they need a break, or need some time with mom and dad. She's as comfortable on the stage of a national political convention as she is in a snowmobile. At least by all appearances, she has it all. But she's a Republican. She's pro-life, refused to abort her Down's Syndrome child, went to a state school, goes to an evangelical church, and knows how to handle a firearm. In the eyes of contemporary feminism, she is nothing short of a raging heretic, and for that she has been excluded from the "successful women" club. And she has done a remarkably poor job of overcoming that narrative in the media; of communicating who she is, instead of who they say she is, to the average voter, the person who waits until after Labor Day to start paying attention to politics. She has already been defined by those who seek to destroy her, and for that reason, she is wholly unelectable. I love her. I think she would probably make a great President. But it will never happen, and for that reason, she needs to not run - to save herself, her family, and the party a whole lot of heartache.
Rick Perry - Guaranteed, this is the media narrative about Rick Perry: Look what happened the last time we elected the governor of Texas. And then game, set, match to Obama.