On the GOP field, part one.

Last week, an anonymous reader asked: “What is your honest opinion of each of the GOP candidates for president?”

Four years ago at this time, I thought that either Romney or Fred Thompson would win the Republican nomination, that the GOP would seriously consider Giuliani as a Presidential candidate, that McCain would flame out early in the Republican primaries, that Edwards would end up in jail sooner or later, that Obama was trying to position himself for a 2016 run, and that Hillary was a lock for the Democratic nomination. I was wrong about five of those predictions, but Johnny Boy is under indictment, so… fingers crossed. You never know how the game’ll play out, so take my comments with a grain of salt. I shall proceed alphabetically.

Michele Bachmann: First time I’ve seen her in a debate. She performed better than I expected, but she treated the whole affair as a one-on-one Q&A session that happened to have seven other candidates at the table. I didn’t sense any real personal engagement– not friendship, not animosity, nothing– between her and the moderators, or between her and the other candidates. It was strange. A Bachmann-Obama debate might just be weird enough to throw Obama off his game, but I doubt it.

Herman Cain: He’s politically unpolished, not up to speed on some of the big foreign policy issues (by his own admission), but he gives the impression that he’d be a quick study. Nothing seems to have fazed him yet, and in tonight’s debate he had a comeback to every attack thrown at him. He won’t get “9-9-9” through Congress, and I think that Bachmann’s, Paul’s, and Santorum’s concerns about the plan are valid. I think he could beat Obama in a debate: he seems more than sharp enough to overcome any rhetorical attack from Obama, he’s personable, folksy, optimistic, and if necessary he can shrug off some of the attacks on his lack of government experience by pointing to his time as Chairman of a Federal Reserve Bank. Some folks felt that Hillary and McCain treated Obama with kid gloves for fear of having the race card played against them; Cain doesn’t have to worry about that and will tee off on Obama.

Newt Gingrich: Newt may be the smartest guy in the room, but he can’t focus. I think he’d be a Republican Jimmy Carter, micromanaging every little detail and somehow managing to ruin all of them. Speaker of the House was the ideal position for him: he seemed like an effective legislator. Tragically– well, not “tragically,” it’s not like he couldn’t avoid it– he cheated on his second wife with his third wife while going after Clinton during Monicagate. Granted, Newt didn’t lie about it under oath, but it didn’t happen so long ago that it’s easily forgotten. I haven’t forgotten, anyways. Another early dropout.

Julianna Goldman: She doesn’t seem to understand what “hypothetical” means, but she’s really good looking, thirty-ish, her dad’s a bigtime DC lawyer, and she’s recently single. I think she’s got promise, and I’m gonna– hold on a second.

…my editor says she was a moderator and not a candidate for President, and that I should move on.

Jon Huntsman: I don’t trust this guy. Something about him reminds me of John Edwards, but I can’t quite place my finger on it. Also, don’t we already have a center-right Mormon governor with some lefty sympathies in the race? And hasn’t that territory already been staked out? No shot at winning the nomination, another early dropout.

Rick Perry: I know all about the deconstruction of Perry’s economic record, but the fact remains that Perry’s Texas gained jobs while Obama’s America lost them. You can only dance around that so much. If Rick Perry gets the nomination, he needs to hope that people ignore the debates and focus on his record. Obama needs to hope that people ignore his record and focus on the debates. Without some serious coaching, Perry will look bad in the debates next fall.

Mitt Romney: He looks, sounds, and acts like he was genetically engineered by a cabal of mad scientists for the sole purpose of winning the Presidency (though I’d also buy that he was a cyborg). He’s got the political experience and machinery to win the nomination and the general election. And he’s slick: he gets to ask one question of one of his rivals, and he asks… Bachmann! He lobs her a softball to make her look good, which might revitalize her campaign just a little bit, which’ll keep the right wing of the party divided while the centrist wing congeals around Romney. He will be as prepared as anybody to beat Obama in the debates next fall, and he’s capable of making Obama look weak and stupid. However, I don’t think Romney can pull off “folksy” as well as Obama can, and Romney probably won’t have the same full-throated GOP support that a Perry or a Cain would.

Rick Santorum: He seems like a decent guy, he makes a good point about the link between poverty and broken homes, but he’s locked into restoring America’s manufacturing sector in a time when the economy is pushing new sectors. Worse, he’s let himself get caught up in an ugly snit with Dan Savage– I won’t elaborate further. Worse worse, he seems bitter that he’s not getting as much attention as other folks, and nobody likes bitter (my life is a testament to such). He’s about a month away from acting completely resigned to losing, and I think he’ll drop out after Iowa.

Due to a smashing headache, I’m going to stop there for the night. The last two guys, Gary Johnson (who wasn’t invited to tonight’s debate) and Ron Paul, are different enough from the other seven that they deserve their own separate treatment. I’ll continue tomorrow.

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