COMMENTARY | The main virtue of the Iowa Caucus is not that it chooses the eventual nominee for president. Just ask President Mike Huckabee, who won in 2008 and then was killed in subsequent contests. Its purpose is to winnow the weak out of the field.
This year’s Republican field has a variety of people with a variety of strengths and weaknesses that make no one person the obvious candidate that everyone gravitates to. I find that all of them — with the obvious exception of Ron Paul — could be a credible president of the United States. However each of them also have flaws that prevent one from embracing them too fervently.
Mitt Romney is smooth, a competent manager, and even looks like a president. He is also a moderate who has been call, quite rightly, a “human weather vane” because of his tendency to blow with the wind.
Newt Gingrich has the great ideas. He also has a mercurial, almost erratic personality that suggests an inability to govern himself not to mention the country.
Rick Perry has the executive experience to run the United States. He also is gaffe prone and has had a number of debate misadventures that call into the question his ability to win a nationwide election.
Rick Santorum is a conventional conservative, though a bit too much of a social righty for my taste, and is surging in the polls. If he does well in Iowa does he have the staying power to win nationwide?
Michele Bachmann has much to offer. But, as Sarah Palin has said, now is not her time.
Ron Paul is positively nutty on foreign policy. He will not be the nominee in any case, so that is not too much of a worry.
It is said that there are three tickets out of Iowa. There are probably four if they are bunched up together in the double digits. My guess they are Romney, Gingrich, Paul, and Santorum. There may even be five tickets out of Perry is in double digits. The Real Clear Politics average Iowa poll suggests just such an outcome. Bachmann will likely have to drop out for lack of money and support.
So the people I particularly like, for different reasons, are not going to be winnowed out by Iowa this time. But I predict that after South Carolina and Florida, there will be only two or three with a serious chance for the nomination. Iowa is just the end of the beginning.
Sources: Mike Huckabee Iowa Caucus Victory Speech, YouTube, Jan 3, 2008
George Will column on Mitt Romney: ‘Has conservatism come so far … for THIS?’, Alexander Burns, Politico, Oct 28, 2011
Palin On Michele Bachmann: It’s Not Her Time, Real Clear Politics, Jan 2, 2011
Iowa Republican Presidential Caucus, Real Clear Politics, Jan 3, 2011