In 2008 I learned my lesson: it's never too early to start examining GOP presidential candidates and to offer my take on winners and losers. The last thing we need in 2012 is an incoherent ('Heh, my friends...'), wish-washy "maverick" who is unmoored from the Constitution.
So I'm sure this take is going to piss off a lot of folks. Tough.
In reverse order of desirability -- using the 10-point must system -- the field is:
Jon Huntsman [1 point] - Who? The former ambassador to China, appointed by Barack Obama, was the media's attempt at marketing a Republican presidential nominee. His liberal track record, combined with his Obama affiliation, make him a non-starter for anyone right of Kathy Griffin.
Ron Paul [1 point] - The once-obscure Texas Congressman has made headlines over the last few years with his attempts to audit the Federal Reserve (okay), his Leftist youth supporters (not okay), his isolationist foreign policies (really not okay), and his tacit acceptance of 9/11 Trutherism (absolutely unacceptable). Echoing Dennis Kucinich's calls for Obama's impeachment (over a supposed violation of the unconstitutional "War Powers Act" - MP3) seals the deal.
Donald Trump [2 points] - The uber-successful real estate tycoon appears to have a single mission: promoting the Donald. His campaign contributions to Chuck Schumer, Anthony Weiner and other Leftists are troubling on their own. But combined with his refusal to entertain questions from conservative media, his campaign has the makings of a publicity stunt, not the effort of a serious GOP candidate.
Mike Huckabee [2 points] - Sorry, folks, but Huckabee is -- in the words of Ann Coulter -- "the evangelical liberals like." In 2008 Huckabee was marketed by the media in ways no real conservative would have ever enjoyed. Why? Because Huckabee was unelectable in the general election, seeing as how his prior positions were largely indistinguishable from those of Barack Obama. His awful track record on illegal immigration, global warming, higher taxes, crime and parole are, to say the least, ominous. Constitutional conservative? Hardly.
Chris Christie [3 points] - The New Jersey governor has the best YouTube cameraman in the business following him around. His candid exchanges with teachers and other union members are posted immediately on the video-sharing website and have garnered widespread attention. Receiving less attention, however, is his odd refusal to join the 30 states fighting Obamacare in the courts. Then add in his past support for global warming legislation, gun control, amnesty for illegal aliens, and erstwhile RINOs Mike Castle and Meg Whitman. To make matters worse, Christie recently launched thinly veiled attacks on Sarah Palin, Michele Bachmann and Rush Limbaugh. The governor has some wonderful YouTube moments, but he appears to be miles way from the kind of conservative that Reagan would have embraced.
Mitch Daniels [4 points] - We don't know if Indiana's popular governor is running or not, but one would certainly expect an attempt. Daniels is marketed as a "Reagan Republican", but he joined that administration very late in the game and served as a key aide to RINO Dick Lugar for many years. In his speech at CPAC, Daniels' split-brained message suggested that conservatives abandon social principles to concentrate on fiscal issues. Uhm, why? And his bizarre advocacy of VAT taxes and cuts in defense spending should trouble every Republican.
Newt Gingrich [5 points] - Is there a smarter candidate from either party than the former Speaker? I think not. But even putting aside his bumbling campaign kickoff, Gingrich's well-documented personal foibles and collaboration with Nancy Pelosi on 'climate change' advocacy are problematic indeed.
Tim Pawlenty [5 points] - The Minnesota governor is, in on the national scene, somewhat of a cipher. Minnesotans know, however, that T-Paw supported boondoggles like light rail, universal health care, price controls for drugs, 'green energy' programs, a Sharia-compliant home ownership program and the use of stimulus money to facilitate rampant deficit spending. On the plus side, he's offered consistent, strong support for immigration enforcement.
Haley Barbour [5 points] - The Mississippi Governor is ineligible to run for another term in his state. A social and fiscal conservative, Barbour's main problem is his lengthy career as a lobbyist and political operative. Update: 'So Long, Haley.'
Herman Cain [6 points] - A highly successful businessman, Cain is credited with helping to defeat Hillarycare, the Clinton administration's run at socialized medicine. A Tea Party favorite, Cain appears to have true conservative credentials but is largely unknown outside of the cognoscenti.
Rand Paul [7 points] - The newly elected Senator from Kentucky appears to be a true Constitutional conservative. He's been brave enough, for example, to offer massive budget cuts -- in the trillions -- to address the catastrophic Pelosi-Obama-Reid budget deficit. His most problematic issue is one that plagues his father: an isolationist foreign policy that seems to downplay the threats that America faces around the globe.
Rick Santorum [7 points] - The former Senator from Pennsylvania is a social conservative who has been rock solid on illegal immigration. He helped lead the successful 1996 Welfare Reform Act, assisted in exposing the abuse of the Congressional Bank, supported Mitt Romney over John McCain in 2008, and consistently backed a robust armed forces effort against Islamofascism. One negative mark: losing his reelection campaign in 2006, though a concerted national Democrat and legacy media effort contributed mightily to his loss.
Mitt Romney [7 points] - The 2008 Presidential candidate has but one major issue dogging him: his Massachusetts version of Obamacare, which has proven much more costly and much less efficient than anticipated. A former missionary and successful businessman, Romney has proven to be a solid executive, helping to rescue the troubled 2002 Olympiad from fiscal ruin and transforming it into a profitable venture.
John Bolton [8 points] - the former Ambassador to the United Nations, Bolton is a foreign policy expert and an eloquent advocate for a strong national security posture. Having served in the Reagan, Bush 41 and Bush 43 administrations, Bolton seems to embrace true "Constitutional conservative" principles that underpin his personal philosophy.
Michele Bachmann [9 points] - The first female Republican elected to Congress by Minnesotans, Bachmann has a strong conservative track record. The founder of the Tea Party Caucus opposed the bank bailouts, socialized medicine, global warming and/or climate change (whatever it's called these days), the Dodd-Frank financial reform bill, and other Democrat initiatives that threaten the Constitution. Her outspoken support for conservative values have made her a Tea Party favorite.
Sarah Palin [10 points] - John McCain's 2008 running mate was the target of some of the most vicious character assassination attempts in modern political history. After an exceptional track record as a local official, mayor, and then governor, Palin was tarred as "inexperienced" and "stupid", though her resume far surpassed that of the Democrat presidential candidate. Post-election, a series of 18 frivolous lawsuits, most launched by Democrat political operatives, threatened to bankrupt her and her family. She resigned the governorship and began raising money for Tea Party-backed conservative candidates in 2010, arguably becoming the primary rainmaker in the historic GOP landslide. Palin's charismatic appeal, plain-spoken American values and love of country make her a favorite for conservatives and a huge target for Democrats and legacy media, who appear terrified by her amazing popularity.
Others: Marco Rubio and Allen West would be conservative favorites if they ever decide to throw their hats in the ring. At this point, it seems they will serve Florida in the Senate and House, respectively.
Who did I miss? Where was I off-base? Let the flame-wars begin!
Linked by: Ace o' Spades. Thanks!