I don’t know who came off looking the best in the debate. Some did quite well, and others didn’t shine at all, while one in particular made everyone else look very intelligent and, um, sane by contrast. Here are my impressions of the candidates, starting with my top three picks, followed by the also-rans and the non-contenders.
(1) Mitt Romney: my favorite. I like his energy, his positive attitude, his confidence. He knows what he wants to do. I believe his pro-life conversion is real. I like his ideas on health care and insurance. He’s smart enough to get up to speed in areas where he might be lacking, such as foreign policy. His negative is that he’s a little murky on the 2nd Amendment. Is he a closeted gun-grabber? And then there’s that Mormon thing, you know, and the fact that they want to be called "Latter-Day Saints". Isn’t that a little intellectually dishonest? "And one more thing," as I heard him say more than once, he needs to lay off Rudy and stick to sticking it to Hillary. Rudy can bloody him at will. Hillary can’t lay a glove on him.
(2) Rudy G.: he’s actually my second choice. I like his positive energy and leadership style. He seems to know what he wants to do. I worry about his apparent willingness to become a gun-grabber, which is a national security issue as far as I’m concerned. His pro-choice stance gives me qualms, but they are secondary to my national security issues. Except for his apparent 2nd Amendment weakness, his national security stance is a point in his favor.
(3) Fred Thompson: Third Choice. I like him. He’s definitely got star quality. I think he’d be a good president, and if he’s the nominee, I’ll support his candidacy enthusiastically. But he’s actually a little too laid back for me, and I wonder if he isn’t a little long in the tooth, so to speak.
John McCain: has my undying respect as a patriotic American who served our country as a brave Navy pilot and endured torture and deprivation as a POW in Vietnam. And he’s an outstanding U.S. Senator, even if he is a bit of a maverick. I think he would serve us better where he is than in the White House.
Mike Huckabee: I liked him. I don’t see him as the nominee, but he’d be a good choice for Vice-president.
Duncan Hunter: Well, he’s right in the middle of the pack, but not a major contender. Possible veep candidate.
Tom Tancredo: I liked him and admire his tenacity on illegal immigration. The problem is it’s his one and only issue about which he’s passionate.
Ron Paul: incoherent, shrill, loud, flailing nutjob. Looks like he’d be right at home on the Democrat debate stage. Makes Ross Perot look cerebral and serene.
Sam Brownback: an empty suit. The exact opposite of Ron Paul, but not in a good way. Dull, lifeless, wind-checker. Why is he still on the stage at these events? Well, he makes the other candidates look better by contrast, as does R.P.
If any of the first three candidates became the nominee, I would support their candidacy enthusiastically.
I think I would be marginally comfortable voting for Huckabee, Hunter, or McCain. Less for Tancredo, and even less for Sam Brownback.
If Ron Paul is the eventual nominee, then the Republican Party will implode and open the door for a third party, maybe even a fourth. I don’t think the outcome would be good for America. The right wing would splinter into different powerless factions while the left wing liberals march triumphantly down the slope towards socialism and take our country with it. And they’d be able to do it with a plurality of voters, but not a majority.