In accordance with my contrarian nature, I disagree that the other Republican presidential candidates are not up to par. I don't have a strong favourite among them, but I think almost any would do a good job.
I admit that I was excited about Herman Cain briefly. In general, I think it is good to get outside opinions into Washington, so much so that I strongly support term limits. My concern with Cain was that he had no previous political experience, not even on a local level. I was afraid that he might get into office and make some embarrassing mistakes because he just didn't have the political background to know how to handle situations, much as our current president has made a number of gaffes, especially in foreign affairs. I acknowledge that this is a trade-off: you can't ask for an outsider and at the same time get the level of comfort that comes with a political insider. I certainly wouldn't rule Cain out because of his lack of experience, but it was a concern. For better or worse, he is no longer a candidate, so I don't have to consider that issue further. (Do you see why I don't follow these things too closely?)
Ron Paul presents another level of discomfort. Unlike Cain, he has a lot of experience, and his stances on the issues are well known. I probably agree with most of his domestic policies. His foreign policy -- the foreign policy of libertarians in general -- is more problematic. When I first saw libertarians promoting themselves as peace candidates back in the 1980's, I was appalled, because I was a hawk and I couldn't understand how these people -- whom I considered allies -- could have such different views. Since then, my views have moved a lot toward a non-interventionist stance (see "A Good Word For Isolationism"). If that were all libertarian foreign policy was about, I might be able to support it. However, when I hear Paul claiming that we are responsible for making Muslims hate us, and saying that a nuclear Iran is no threat, I part ways. A realistic foreign policy can conclude that the U.S. should not be as involved in policing the world as it is now. A realistic foreign policy cannot be premised on the idea that supporting Israel is a good reason for Muslims to hate us. Muslims are going to have to take responsibility for their own destructive actions, and we cannot withdraw from the world so much that we allow vulnerable states to be destroyed to save ourselves from raving fanatics.
Newt Gingrich is an extraordinary person. When he engineered the Republican takeover of Congress in 1994, he was my hero. It wasn't long after that that I began hearing some of his curious statements. I particularly remember one interview in which he berated a bunch I of reporters for being surprised that he and President Clinton had been able to work together on an issue: "Let me tell you something: This is a new era. The old rules don't apply." First, his condescending tone was annoying. Second, my scepticism alert goes off whenever I hear anyone talking about "a new era" or "old rules not applying." It's not that things don't change, but they generally do so rarely and slowly. People are too eager to proclaim new eras for the obvious reason that it gets them attention, or -- in Gingrich's case -- because he genuinely thinks that he is capable of bringing about such a formidable transformation. I didn't let these things bother me too much at the time, because I was still in awe of his electoral accomplishment. However, his subsequent statements have reinforced my impression of him who thinks too much of himself. That would not be a serious problem in itself; really, anyone who runs for president has a big ego, and it seems a little trifling to worry about whether Newt's is bigger than everyone else. My concern is that he is a little too interested in placing himself above ideology. He is determined to be an independent i thinker, which is good, but I think he takes pleasure in demonstrating that he is not bound i to standard conservative positions. His well-known support for the global warming crisis 1 is just one example. I can see him waking up some day with a grand government scheme that would transform America and mark him as a heroic president. Liberals would jump all over it because it is basically a liberal idea, and conservatives would be left trying to fight a Republican president.
I took an interesting quiz recently that identified Rick Santorum as the candidate closest to my views. From what I have read, he is a very grounded person with deep beliefs, which is important to me. I was pleased by his good showing in Iowa, but I doubt he is strong enough to win the nomination. My feeling, for what it is worth, is that Mitt Romney will be the Republican candidate I think, in fact, that he is going to win the election as well. It is difficult to tell if this would be a benefit for conservatives, but there are many ways that it has to be better than another term for Obama.