I've been an interested observer of presidential elections for most of my life. As a teenager I laid in bed with an AM radio pressed to my ear listening to the Kansas City Republican Convention as the roll was called and Ronald Reagan narrowly lost to Jerry Ford.
The most important words in that paragraph are the last seven:
"Ronald Reagan narrowly lost to Jerry Ford"
It's a surreal thing now to consider that Ronald Reagan was once judged by Republicans to be inferior to Gerald Ford. Of course some of those who voted for Ford did so out of ignorance, hope of personal gain, and/or the same lack of independent thought that leads lemmings to the sea.
But many supported Ford because he was the safe choice. He was considered "safe" because the establishment proclaimed him so. Ronald Reagan, they assured us, was a wild eyed radical who would lead the party to ruin.
Given the closeness of Jimmy Carter's victory over a Ford weighted down by the Nixon Pardon and a weak economy, it is a reasonable conclusion that had RR been the nominee he would have won. (Reagan probably wouldn't have claimed that Poland was not under Soviet domination and I don't recall him ever falling out of an airplane.)
Which brings me to our current problem. If we were casting a movie, Mitt Romney would be perfect for the role of President. He's attractive, well spoken, has a compelling private sector resume, has the money to self fund, and won an election in a very blue state. The Establishment loves him (Chris Christie I'm looking at you) because he is the "safe" choice to run against Barack Obama.
In this cycle where the GOP appears to have a golden opportunity to win the presidency, I can not support Mitt Romney unless and until he is the last man standing. However I am starting to understand that even lacking majority support, Romney could wind up winning this nomination by default, thus the non-Romney forces should carefully consider all the non-Romney alternatives.
For some time I've made it clear that I support Rick Perry, and I still do, but under the circumstances outlined above, and in light of Perry's uneven showing in recent weeks, I find myself glancing anew at the field.
I don't consider Bachmann, Huntsman, Santorum, Johnson, or Paul to be legitimate contenders at this point. In fact I see only four candidates left who have a real world chance to get the nomination. Romney, Perry, Cain, and Gingrich.
Like many others I wrote Newt off months ago but to his credit the former Speaker has kept trudging onward and in my opinion has worked his way back into viable status. Yes, I know he has more baggage than O'Hare, but I no longer think it is insurmountable. As a sharp lady predicted recently, this is shaping up to be a most "unconventional" election year.
Boiled down to the essentials, even with his problems, I consider Newt Gingrich preferable to Mitt Romney. Thus my new rankings FWIW are:
Rick Perry, Herman Cain, Newt Gingrich, Mitt Romney.