Brian Bailey Preface to the Revised Edition

Election Season: The Contenders

Here's my take on the major candidates for president. Two things before I start: first, I respect all of the candidates (sorry, except Alan Keyes). I actually think this is an impressive group of people. All of them are serious about what they're doing, are determined to make the country a better place, and have sacrificed a lot to make their case. Second, I'm afraid I won't be covering all of the candidates, including Richardson, Biden, Gravel, Hunter, Kucinich, and Dodd.

Governor Mitt Romney

Governor Romney is very accomplished and I believe his White House would be smooth running, clean, and competent. His personality is not appealing to me and watching him in debates, as well as working the crowd on C-Span, he reminds me almost of Al Gore. He has a sense about him that he is above everyone and can't believe he has to put up with all of this just to get elected.

That's just personal impression, though. The real issue for me is his evolving policies as he morphs from an innovative moderate to Mr. Conservative. David Brooks makes the point much better than I can in today's column: Road to Nowhere.

Oh, and he also loses points for his website.

Senator Hillary Clinton

I think it's time for a woman to be president, but I would not be able to vote for Senator Clinton. I certainly think she's qualified, but I'm afraid I couldn't support the manipulation and spin of her campaign, along with the extensive baggage of the past and her positions on many issues. Even without these problems, if Senator Clinton is elected a Clinton or Bush will have been president for 24 consecutive years and serving in the White House for 32! Please tell me that a thriving democracy of 300 million people can find someone else to be president.

And in case you weren't aware, if Senator Clinton did win, her likely Republican opponent in 2012 is: former Florida Governor Jeb Bush.

I know Republicans want to run against Senator Clinton and with the high percentage of people who say they would not vote for her, I understand why. However, I hope the country can be spared what would surely be an incredibly negative, retro campaign.

Governor Mike Huckabee

The Arkansas Governor is very personable and likable, and his appeal is obvious. However, he is not ready for prime time in my opinion. There are often candidates in the primary who run without substantial expectations, but to push the party in one direction or another, raise their national profile, or possibly be considered for vice-president. When Huckabee suddenly appeared at the top of the Iowa polls, it was clear that he was not prepared to be a national front runner. His campaign has made a number of missteps since and his foreign policy views and credentials are weak to say the least.

My two biggest issues are first, his willingness to push his Christianity beyond what is appropriate for a presidential candidate, knowing that it can be a recipe for success in Iowa. People often forget that Pat Robertson(!) finished second in Iowa in 1988. Huckabee is actually a successful governor, so I'm not comparing their resumes, but there is a very strong evangelical base in Iowa that seems to really want to elect a pastor.

Second, Huckabee was known early in the campaign for his compassion ("We're a better country than that, Mitt"), especially on the immigration issue. It became clear that "soft" on immigration was a big problem, especially in Iowa, so he came out with one of the toughest illegal immigration plans of any candidate, one that laughably requires 12 million people and their families to leave the country within 120 days. To further emphasize the Crib-note approach to his campaign, the proposal was based almost entirely on a National Review article from 2005.

Yesterday, there was more fun as he called a press conference to announce his first attack ad on Romney (surrounded by "Enough is Enough" posters). He showed up, announced that an hour earlier he had changed his mind and would not run the ad on principal. Then, he showed the ad to the press anyway.

Senator John Edwards

A smart, generally likable man, whose his wife and family I really respect. I also admire his determination to raise the profile of poverty. His populism and class warfare is less appealing, however, and his constant apologizing for past votes makes me question his overall judgement.

I'm a bit amazed that he remains significant. He finished second in Iowa in 2004, was his party's nominee for VP, and has campaigned there ever since. As a result, he has an outside chance of finishing, wait for it, second! The Democrats did not win his own state, or any state in the south, in 2004, and he was not even considered likely to win re-election as a senator. You would think he would have more to show after running for president for six years.

Even if he does surprisingly well in Iowa, his campaign doesn't have anyplace to go after that. I'm curious to see what he does when running for president is no longer an option.

Senator Fred Thompson

I was never much impressed at the idea of a Thompson campaign, and it's only been downhill since then. Like Romney, he was once known as a more moderate Republican who is now attempting to brand the rest of his opponents as weak conservatives. I have never seen a more uninspiring speaker on the stump, or someone who looks more uncomfortable actually shaking people's hands and talking to them.

I honestly don't know why he decided to run, but he will likely be gone after Thursday.

Congressman Ron Paul

The Paul campaign is a true phenomenon. It's incredible to see the level of fundraising and online success he's achieve. I love how many new people have become active in politics because of his candidacy. By next Tuesday, we'll know if he can be equally surprising at the ballot box.

I think very highly of the congressman and love his clarity and willingness to take an argument to its logical conclusion. Libertarianism has always appealed to me, but I can't imagine it ever reaching critical mass in this country. I do wish that Congressman Paul could make a truly positive case for his beliefs, rather than focusing on frustration, anger and fear.

Ideas and ideals are critical, but they are not sufficient to elect a president or govern. Where is there evidence of Paul's ability to reach out to other leaders, to build coalitions, to be such a forceful persuader and campaigner that some of his ideas actually become a reality? Staying ideologically pure, never compromising, and being Dr. No may help you sleep well at night, but what has it truly accomplished for the country?

Rudy Giuliani

In an oversight that is incredibly revealing, I completely forgot about Rudy Giuliani in my first version of this post. That is how irrelevant he has seemed in the last two weeks.

After dominating Republican polls for months, doing fairly well in the debates, and surprising people with his continued appeal, Giuliani decision to abandon Iowa and New Hampshire for the warmth of Florida has caused him to disappear from the race.

Of course, the string of reports on his past business deals and reminders of his very public affair and third marriage haven't helped either. I largely agree with Giulian's innovative ideas and like his confidence and willingness to make a relentless case for his positions. No doubt, a Giuliani presidency would dominate the news like no one other than a Clinton, but I don't think that's a good thing. My sense is that he would be a very divisive president in the end.

Next up: Senator McCain and Senator Obama.