There are few things as entertaining to watch as early primary elections. This year has been particulary interesting because each and every candidate is coming out in a slightly different shade of "Anti-Obama Gray." In general, every candidate has been saying the same things, has been touting roughly the same credentials and very similar missions and positions. At a nuts-and-bolts level, there are some significant differences in ideology and personal belief. Unfortunately, the "front-runner" candidates have learned that it's better to be a cookie-cutter conservative than to have a single independent thought. Free thinking is for liberal socialists.
So, let's take a look at the various people running for on the right-hand side for the office of President. First, there's Ron Paul. Paul really seems to have it all: a loyal fan base, lots of money, good numbers in the polls, and a strong conviction to what he believes in. The only reason he's not the poster child of the movement is that those strong convictions are not in line with every single doctrine of the GOP and the Tea Party nuts. Of all the candidates, I would pick Ron Paul if I had to. He seems to actually think about his positions rather than just ranting on and on like some people (Bachmann). Unfortunately, he's not taken seriously be the right-wing base, and there just aren't enough libertarians in the U.S. yet to take him all the way to the White House.
Next, we've got Michelle Bachmann. It strikes me as odd that a person like Bachmann is not laughed off stages whenever she appears. For one thing, she tends to make significant errors when it comes to history. For another, she has (in my opinion) a very flat personality, a smile that would make Howard Dean cringe, and some weird cogs spinning in her head. What Bachmann really is at this point is a proxy for Sarah Palin. Palin's not in the race, and so they have to settle for the slightly more neurotic, more psychopathic, less eloquent substitute that is Michelle Bachmann. I'm not saying Palin is better, just taht Michelle is a different kind of crazy. It's like the difference between almonds and peanuts. They look different and have a different flavor, but they're both nuts.
Then it's Herman Cain, the man who brought us Godfather's Pizza and three-page legislation. Yes, Mr. Cain is a serious contender for President. He's got a solid group of people who listen to him (they may also be the biggest consumers of Godfather Pizza products), he has a lot of radical new ideas (even though his ideas are only "radical" because they're not helpful in any way, and new because no one else has ever had so little experience that they thought they were worth mentioning), and he has a personality that is engaging and refreshing (sort of the way 1960's sitcoms are engaging and lukewarm TV dinners are refreshing). In reality, Cain seems to me to be just another talking head for the GOP. He's the minority card carrier for the Right this time around, and he's got enough business experience to make the Right-wing nuts believe he's practically a President already.
John Huntsman. Like Ron Paul, he's actually a bit of a maverick when it comes to the GOP. He doesn't toe the Republican line on everything, and he's got decent experience. Unfortunately, he's a little to much like Romney in ways that he can't really help. For one thing, they've both got the winning smile that makes them look just a little crazy in the eyes. Second, they've got the salt-and-pepper hair and old-but-wise faces that instill confidence and make people think "now there's a politician." Finally, they're both Mormon. That means they've got a pool of voters they've got to fight over that will never vote for anyone who doesn't believe they'll get their own planet when they die. It makes them look a little crazy, but that's okay. The one thing Huntsman doesn't have is name recognition. He's just not as well known, mostly because he's never made the astronomical mistake of producing a law that later became a corner stone of Public Enemy No.1's (AKA Obama's) political policy.
Which brings us to Romney. He's probably the most well-known and generally liked candidate, since most people who were in the know during Newt Gingrich's last reign of power do not look at him very favorably now. Romney has to get out from under the weight of his own health care plan, though. The funny thing about this is that, if Obama hadn't modeled his health care law on Romney's, it would never have been an issue. Furthermore, if Romney had been President when he implemented his law, it would have been hailed by the GOP. Romney's a smart guy, he's got money and experience, but he'll never get the vote from the new base of the GOP: the knee-jerk-reaction crowd, the mindless conservative junkies, and the people who just like to scream.
Newt Gingrich is next. He's a smart guy, and certainly has the experience. The minor issues of having no campaign staff, no air time, no real base of followers, no contributions, no money in general, no solid foundation of support in the GOP, and a general air of hypocrisy when it comes to family values should not disqualify Gingrich from the race. Such shortcomings should make Gingrich look like a real American, struggling against the elitists to scratch out a living. Well...yeah, not so much. Gingrich may have a lot of personal problems, and even a few professional ones, but the main reason he's slipping away is because he doesn't have the personality of the new GOP. He doesn't yell, he doesn't gesticulate, he doesn't change history to make people like him, and he doesn't even mismanage facts and information to make himself look good. He's just too logical to be a Republican. His mannerisms and personality seem more like...liberals. Of course, that's because Gingrich is a powerhouse of the GOP from when they held opinions that were much more centrist or liberal than what the Right holds now. Like Reagan, Newt's policies have not changed but still be pushed to the Left by the evermore conservative standard of the GOP.
Then there's Rick Santorum....um...you know, I'm not really sure I know much about him, save that he's, well...running for President....I think? He's sort of like Gingrich without the history, Paul without the notoriety, or Cain without the legions of pizza fans. Santorum has moved into the position of "safety candidate." If all the frontrunners, middle candidates, and most of the others drop out or discredit themselves somehow, Santorum will be there to humbly....very humbly....take up the charge. The problem with Santorum is that he lacks any originality. He's not overwhelmingly pulled in one direction, he's got no major fan base to speak of, and he's mediocre when it comes to every poll and contribution rating.
Finally there's Rick Perry. Overnight, Perry has rocketed up in the polls, has shown the kind of professionalism and intelligence that is so sought after in a candidate for President. On the other hand, he's absolutely bat-shit crazy. This is the guy who believes that "separation of church and state" is really just a suggestion, the evolution is a contentious scientific theory, that guns should have rights like people, that corporations are victims, and that government intrusion is bad unless that intrusion forces everyone to live by rigid conservative standards. I'm exaggerating of course, but not by much, and certainly not about everything. Perry is the guy that scares me the most because he could actually win. He says just enough intelligent things to please the independents, and has enough hardcore conservative craziness to make him attractive to other hardcore crazy conservatives. Whereas the Right complains that Obama is an imcompetent President that has complete disregard for the law and the people, Rick Perry would likely be just as bad for different reasons. The conservative kool-aid is pounding in Perry's veins, and he's likely to snag high-powered endorsements and probably the nomination. The only person who might stop him is Palin, but she's still not running, which means we don't have to watch a fight between two insane conservatives just yet.
And that's the pool of GOP candidates. It's certainly an ecclectic group, with lots of nuance and diversity of opinion. Kind of....
Seriously, though, I would not consider voting for any of these people at this time. I'm not ready to see our liberties dismantled in the name of conservative politics, or to see our constitutional rights and federal protections marginalized so that corporations and billionaires can make a few more dollars at our expense.