I really don't remember races being as fluid as this one is, I guess part of the reason is that we have so many televised debates between the candidates and so many people are actually watching and caring what the candidates say. So at this point, almost every candidate has been put through the ringer on their positions and you can really get a real sense of what you are getting if you vote for them. It is definitely better if you find out the warts now rather than November. Remember, the revelation that W. had a DUI arrest in his past nearly cost him the 2000 election because it came out about 5 days before people voted (he was leading nicely in the polls before then). The downside though is I feel we might be a little bit too aware of all the weaknesses of the candidates and that can be deflating as unfortunately, nobody is perfect.
I'm really finding Romney to be grating, more so now than before. I feel like every debate I find another thing not to like about him and I'm not talking about him hiring landscapers who hired illegals (if that were a crime, a large percentage of homeowners would be guilty, how the heck are you going to know if they have their papers, especially if they do their work during the workweek when you might not be home?). I really didn't like how he snarkly mentioned that he got the idea for the individual mandate from Newt and the Heritage Foundation. Every time he defends Romneycare I get more and more convinced he won't do almost anything to repeal Obamacare. Repealing Obamacare is going to require trench warfare and the use of a lot of political capital, I don't see Romney fighting that strongly, not when he is spending so much time defending the individual mandate. I also didn't like the way he yelled at Perry during the debate. Yup, Perry was annoying, constantly interrupting him and blowing up that landscaping issue to make it sound like Romney was busing truckloads of illegals himself (Romney is the #1 magnet for illegals? His lawn isn't THAT big). When he said "if you want to be President of the United States, you'll let the other guy talk" I felt that was way too condescending. It sort of reminded me of the way people talked to Jackie Mason in Caddyshack II as if Rick Perry was some Nouveau Riche guy who just isn't suave enough to be considered a "gentleman". That said, Perry is probably toast.
Now on to Cain, who I still really like. His knee jerk reaction to things seems to be, "government shouldn't be involved in that" which, as a libertarian, I love. On the other hand, he really needs to professionalize his campaign. He needs better PR people advising him and he needs the boots on the ground promoting him. Otherwise, even if he wins in Iowa or South Carolina he might not be able to capitalize on it and someone like Romney, who has the funding to compete nationally, could end up beating him. Organizations matter. Obama beat Hillary last time because of his organization (though Democratic party demographics didn't hurt). He also needs to practice thinking things through before he says them. How does one say that he would be willing to release the gitmo prisoners in a trade with Al-Qaeda and then in the very next sentence say the policy of the United States should be not to negotiate with terrorists? Does that mean we might have a policy but like all other politicians, Cain won't hold himself to it if it suits him not to? That's not very reassuring. If I wanted a Republican who bent like a reed in the wind, I'd vote for Romney. Luckily all this can be fixed. I also think the 9-9-9 plan has zero chance of getting passed though it is at least goes in the right direction of what needs to be done.
Now on to batsh*t crazy Newt. He has done excellently in the debates, a really great job. I think I have enjoyed at least something he has said in each one. He also comes across as someone who can actually get things done if elected, unlike others (will Cain be able to convince people to vote his way? The apples and oranges metaphor will wear thin really fast). I think you can confidently say he will do the conservative thing 90% of the time and some crazy off-the-wall thing the other 10%, but unfortunately you don't know when it will come. Remember his description of the Paul Ryan plan as "social engineering"? Where the heck did that come from? He does realize Ryan is trying to reform a single payor (i.e. socialist) system right? So I don't know how I feel about Newt. Cain is definitely more of an authentic conservative/libertarian but Newt will probably get more conservative/libertarian items actually passed (and some stuff I hate as well).
I like Santorum but I felt the last debate was his weakest one. Usually he does a great job of sounding like a reasonable conservative who can get things done. I felt he really went over the top in this debate though. His diatribe about how he has won in a blue state was a bit pathetic since he lost so badly in 2006, getting only 41% of the vote. A little humility given he was so humiliated would have been in order. Also, he attacked other candidates for supporting TARP but can he really say with a straight face that he would have opposed it had he been in office? I find that hard to believe given he was in the Senate leadership and he also voted with his party for Medicare Part D.
I think Ron Paul and Michelle Bachmann are fun to listen to but they really are also-rans at this point, barring some sort of miracle for their campaigns.
So there we have it. I feel like I know a ton about all the candidates but I remain perplexed about who I actually want to win the nomination. At least I feel like I've narrowed down the list some. Well, until the next debate anyway.