Tomorrow, Iowans take to the polls to cast the first real votes towards determining who will be the Republican Presidential candidate to stand against President Barack Obama in November's election.
The last polls are reflecting an extremely tight race between Mitt Romney, Ron Paul, and Rick Santorum. Falling into the second tier are former frontrunner Newt Gingrich, Rick Perry, and Michelle Bachmann. The last GOP candidate for the nomination, Jon Huntsman, is effectively not running in Iowa - putting his attention on next Tuesday's New Hampshire primary.
Of the Iowa front runners, Rick Santorum is the only one who is surging - moving significantly higher in the last couple of weeks and benefiting from Newt Gingrich's fall in popularity. Ron Paul had a pre-Christmas surge - but has seemed to have lost a little support as we close to the caucus tomorrow. Still, Paul has a motivated base and a strong organization in Iowa. Mitt Romney has improved slightly as he started to pay more attention to the caucus vote.
I think that any of the top three can win the Iowa caucuses and they will finish within 2 or 3 % of each other. I believe that it is ultimately immaterial as to the specific order of finish - Romney, Paul, and Santorum will be 1st thru 3rd when the caucus votes are counted.
While the press will make a huge issue around either a Ron Paul or Rick Santorum first place finish - the race will not end until after the March 6th Super Tuesday primary results are tabulated. The GOP Presidential candidate will be effectively decided - and then the party can work towards unification on the primary missions for November - retain the GOP Majority in the House, gain a GOP Majority in the Senate, and prevent Barack Obama from a 2nd term as President.
As the voting starts, it's pretty clear that there will be no effective new candidates entering the race. So with a field that will only decrease in size - and after giving the race a lot of thought and consideration, I'm going to endorse who I think will be the GOP nominee. I'll do so by reviewing the remaining field of candidates...
I could not envision considering Ron Paul as a viable candidate for any office given his history and positions. His connections to fringe groups like white supremacists, 9/11 truthers and also conspiracy nutters, the John Birch Society, not to mention his efforts to disavow bigoted and inane comments made in his newsletters make him a horrifically flawed candidate. If the GOP would nominate Paul as their Presidential candidate, I would immediately change my affiliation from Republican to Independent and note that the GOP left me - not the other way around. A Paul Presidency would be as much of a disaster as the current Presidency is.
Another candidate that I cannot consider supporting is former Utah Governor Jon Huntsman. While Huntsman has a conservative record as Utah Governor, he reminds me far too much of the GOP 2008 candidate John McCain - albeit with less a thirst to kiss up to the mainstream media. After his service in the Obama Administration, Huntsman is being tagged as a RINO. That combined with my belief that he will seek compromise at any and all opportunities - and I don't see him as the person to reverse the trend the country is on.
Michelle Bachmann will be the first of the remaining candidates to drop out of race - and will do so before the end of the month. Her missteps regarding the attacks on Rick Perry over the Gardasil vaccination crippled her campaign with many Republicans. She lacks leadership experience - and if she can retain her seat in the House this November, she needs to get a role in the House leadership if she is to be a viable Presidential candidate in the future. I can't support Michelle Bachmann.
Rick Perry, as he announced his candidacy, had a major negative working against him as a potential opponent to Obama - being another Texas conservative - and one who, in my opinion, couldn't effectively debate or communicate to the electorate - particularly after 8 years of attacks on George W. Bush re being from Texas and a poor communicator. Like Bachmann, Perry has a huge electability problem on the national stage.
Rick Santorum is gaining the benefits from a year plus of retail politicking in Iowa. I agree with his positions on the importance of the family and family values as being a missing element today. He is the Mike Huckabee candidate of 2012. But I also think he lacks the electability needed to be President. He is proving that he should be in a new Republican President's cabinet - but other than spending between now and March fighting with Gingrich as the 'anti-Romney' candidate - he will not be the nominee.
Like many others, I've enjoyed Newt Gingrich's debate performances. He has been effective in calling the media on it's biases as well as educating other candidates and the public on key issues. He has a broad depth and breadth of knowledge - but his weaknesses as the same as they were during his tenure as Speaker. His mouth and willingness to speak without really thinking continue to get him into trouble. He is still challenged to remain on focus and to see the specific job that needs to get done - done correctly (Virginia primary debacle). His baggage, his flip/flops, and his moderate positions re climate change, and health care make him more of a question than Mitt Romney - his usual target on all of those issues.
Which brings me to the candidate whom I am endorsing for the GOP nomination...Mitt Romney.
Despite his positions regarding Romneycare, Romney is the most electable conservative candidate in the race for the GOP Presidential nomination. He is and will serve as a reliable economic conservative - bringing his strong business background and experience as the head of the Salt Lake City Winter Olympics to address the economic challenges that the country faces. He has less baggage and challenges around major issues than Newt Gingrich - and will match the countries slightly right of center general political point of view. His announcement that he would veto the Dream Act reflects a good basic position regarding illegal immigration - and his administrative skills will help clean out and reset the DC bureaucracy towards doing their jobs and less on partisan politics.
Romney also has the organization and financial support to be able to compete with Barack Obama - and will be able to debate the President extremely well. His approach towards foreign policy - and willingness to listen to John Bolton is also a major factor towards my endorsement of his candidacy.
The long fight to the Republican convention - and the Republican nomination will work to the benefit of the Republican candidate. That candidate also has a very strong pool of people with which to build a ticket - a ticket that I believe will be victorious in November.