For months now I have been debating whom to vote for in the Republican primary. As primary day nears I know I need to make a decision, but as I survey the Republican field I continue to have doubts about most of the "frontrunners." So I thought I would take a few moments to share some of my current thinking on this very important decision.
Giuliani? There is much to like about him, particularly the sense that he is a leader whose policies are not determined by poll numbers. He doesn't seem to care what people think of him, and in these dangerous international times I think that is a plus. I also think he is one our best hopes of winning nationally because of his ability to win independent and crossover votes. But as a pro-life Christian conservative, I can't ignore his liberal social views. My husband says that Giuliani's commitment to appoint strict constructionist judges may ironically make him a better friend to the pro-life cause than some past supposedly pro-life presidents whose judicial appointments let us down. But I'm not sure. If Giuliani gets the nomination I will vote for him in the general election because I like his economic and foreign policy views and I'm not convinced he will hurt the pro-life cause. I also think the primary directive should be to prevent the Democrats from regaining the presidency because the thing that scares me most is the lasting repercussions of having any of the current Democratic contenders in the White House.
Thompson? I just don't think he wants it very much. And I haven't been that impressed by his debate and interview appearances. He seems to rely way too much on notes rather than a having a true command of the issues.
Romney? I'm sorry, but it's the Mormonism. I just don't feel comfortable voting for someone as my president who can embrace all of the tenets of that religion. I also cannot get out of my mind an interview with Mrs. Romney where she claimed not to remember writing a large check to Planned Parenthood. There is some dishonesty there that I don't feel good about. The Romneys strike me as a couple, like the Clintons, who have long planned for the presidency and who will say and do whatever it takes to get there. When I listen to Mitt answer a question I feel like he is pressing the "play" button and just letting the canned answer spin itself out rather than speaking from somewhere within himself.
Huckabee? I have taken a few looks at him along the way and also see much to like there. But I don't respect his stepping back from his religious beliefs in the name of political advancement (he refuses to stand up for beliefs that I know he holds to but instead finds ways to "talk around" them). I also don't like his big government (high tax, overspending) ways and his coziness with the NEA (he was the only Republican candidate to address that body and in so doing faulted his Republican friends for sending the message that they don't value education because they didn't do the same).
That leaves John McCain. Early in this campaign I was leaning toward him but after a couple of lackluster debate performances I started to wonder if he could be competitive in the general election. But it just so happens that he actually polls better against the Democratic candidates than any of the other GOP possibilities. I saw Democratic strategist Bob Beckel on television a few nights ago acknowledging that McCain is the Republican the Democrats fear most. In recent days McCain has picked up some momentum with the support of Joe Lieberman and a string of newspaper endorsements. The Boston Herald in fact has this year dispensed with its practice of endorsing candidates in both primaries and has called for independents and Democrats alike to cross over to the Republican primary and support McCain because they think he is the single best man to be the next president.
In coming weeks I will be taking a second look at McCain. I know conservatives have some issues with him--taxes, immigration, campaign finance reform--but I have always appreciated his candor. He says he supports making the Bush tax cuts permanent because they have clearly helped the economy. He has the support of an entire gallery of former secretaries of state as well as that of a host of other names that I respect. I think he understands the treacherous times in which we live and would make national security a priority. And by the way, have you seen his Christmas message? While everyone is making such a fuss about Huckabee's commercial featuring the bookshelf that looks like a cross, McCain's commercial overtly features a cross as he tells the story of the encouragement he received as a POW when one of his North Korean guards drew a cross in the sand.
Boy, that almost sounds like an endorsement, doesn't it? I'm not quite ready to go in to the voting booth yet, but these are the things that I will be thinking about over the next few months. And it looks like I'm not the only one.