The night of the New Hampshire debate after being harassed by my Twitter friends, I broke down my priorities for the GOP candidate. Surely, you've decided who you want already, people said. Well, not so much.
So I explained my criteria for the Republican nominee and I offer it to you here, now, before this debate.
1. Anybody but Obama.
I will support a roasted red turnip who claims the Republican mantle over Barack Obama. A root vegetable would know more about foreign and economic policy. People ask, "Even Ron Paul?!" Yes, even him.
2. Executive Experience.
The "executive experience" requirement eliminates some folks, but oh well. I want our next President to know his or her way around the bottom line. He or she should be ok making decisions. A Governor has to be elected by a broad base of folks. A Governor has to stay true to principles but be more pragmatic. A good Governor leads.
So that means no to Cain, Bachmann, Newt, Thad McCotter, Ron Paul, Santorum etc.
That winnows the list to: Romney, Perry, Palin, Pawlenty, Huntsman (ahem) and Johnson (cough).
3. Can win.
I didn't think the New Hampshire debate was going to be important, but then, it became important for one candidate: Tim Pawlenty. I like Governor Pawlenty. He's a good man. He has a decent record. But he whiffed. He had the opportunity to knock out Governor Romney on Romneycare in Massachusetts, but he didn't. The Republican candidate is going to have to be tough. And Governor Pawlenty just hasn't gotten traction.
Gary Johnson: No chance. Jon Huntsman: Beloved by liberals everywhere. I don't see him getting traction.
That leaves Romney, Perry and Palin.
The problem at the Iowa debate tonight is that the two biggest contenders to Mitt Romney won't be there. So, how important is the debate? How important is Iowa?
Every time someone tells me that Iowa is a super important state I think two words: Howard Dean.
Meh. The state and debate is important insomuch as one doesn't want to fail there, too badly.
Another thing: The straw poll in Iowa is set up so that folks can be bussed in and the tickets paid for by candidates. Who does this favor? Mitt Romney and Ron Paul. Both routinely stuff ballots at straw polls. I fully expect their people to do the same here. So, for what that's worth...
Bottom line, it's early. I am curious to see how the candidates react to pressure. We know how Sarah Palin reacts and she's a fighter and has endured.
Romney, though, hasn't really been tested, interestingly enough. Remember John McCain? The press loved him too. Why? He was eminently beatable. And then, he got the nomination and the press turned like vipers.
Mitt Romney is more moderate. He's a big government Republican. If the press has to be "stuck" with a Republican, he's their kind of Republican. Well, he or Jon Huntsman. And then, he'd get the nomination and they will savage him.
Palin and now, Perry, provoke deep-seated, reflexive fear and loathing by liberals. They are outspoken conservatives who represent all things that make them shrink like vampires from the light.
Can Romney, Perry or Palin win against Obama? Oh heck yes they can. All of them can lead, give a speech, rouse a crowd and have experience.
So, the debate tonight is really about Romney and not screwing up. He handled hecklers well early today. I figure he'll do fine tonight. I also expect Michele Bachmann to do well, too. She's is absolutely certain of her policy positions and she's smart and quick on her feet. My only knock? She hasn't got executive experience. That's critical and I think that will be critical for the Republican nominee.
P.S. I'm really interested in your thoughts about the debate tonight and the field in general. And I recognize that neither Perry or Palin is officially in the race yet. I just expect they both will be.
P.P.S. Remember Point #1. All of the Presidential contenders on the Republican side are lightyears ahead of President Obama. And at the New Hampshire debate I was so impressed with the depth and breadth of experience of the Republican hopefuls.
I think I take it back about Ron Paul. His foreign policy is INSANE. He's to the left of Obama. Wow.
Bachmann and Pawlenty really hurt themselves and each other going back and forth.
Gingrich did a good job. Got some good zings in. Don't think anyone is taking him seriously as President.
Pawlenty .... oh man, I think he's done.
Cain, Santorum, Paul, Huntsman. Just don't see it happening.
Bret Baier kept things going. The questions were mostly good, but just not enough questions on jobs, entitlement reform and the economy.
Mitt Romney was like the ghost candidate. He was mostly silent. The debate moderators seemed to not want to ask him a question or a tough question or a follow up question. What the heck? Shouldn't a front runner get questioned?
Anyway, ultimately, I still say this is all relatively irrelevant until Perry and Palin get in the race.