This is my favorite time for watching television, reading newspapers, monitoring blogs. I follow presidential politics the way the most radical fans follow the Colts. I watch every debate on both sides. I go to all the candidates' web pages. I read their position papers. I view their ads. This is the only time I wish I lived in Iowa or New Hampshire. I envy those who get to see all the presidential hopefuls up close and personal.
Unfortunately, in Indiana the closest we normally come to presidential pols is when their planes fly overhead on their way to somewhere else. In Indiana, you have to go to YouTube to see candidate's ads. By the time, our primary comes around, our vote will be moot. The rest of the country will have already decided who the nominees are. Not that it really matters. It's highly unlikely that we won't vote for the Republican, no matter who that turns out to be.
For what it's worth, here is my take on the candidates:
Front-runner (so far) Rudy Giuliani - Rudy's claim to fame is 9/11 but what is his record regarding that fateful day? He put his security headquarters in the World Trade Center, against the advice of all the experts, because it was within walking distance of the Governor's Mansion. He also had an apartment installed, which we now know, is one of the places he met his then mistress, now wife. He ignored safety officials' urgent requests to provide police and fire departments radios with compatible frequencies so that on 9/11, they couldn't communicate with one another. He put forth the name of Bernard Kerik to be the first head of Homeland Security, the same Bernie Kerik he'd been told had ties to the mob and the very same Bernie Kerik who is now under indictment on numerous felonies. He was one of the original 9/11 commission members but was asked to resign when he didn't attend any of the meetings because he was too busy making high dollar speeches about his expertise in handling terrorism.
Mike Huckabee (perhaps the new front-runner by now) - Huckabee is the most witty and amiable-seeming of the Republicans. My own biggest concern about Huckabee is the same thing that probably makes him popular with evangelical Republicans and that is his religiosity. He has stated that his religion informs who he is and it is why he doesn't believe in evolution and thought that AIDS victims should be quarantined (presumably on some deserted island much as we used to do to lepers). I don't want America to become a Christian theocracy. Huckabee has that same self-deprecating sense of humor that Bill Clinton has (what is it about politicians from Hope, Arkansas?) but he is better than Clinton was at sticking the shiv into his opponents' backs so subtly that they barely know they've suffered a mortal wound until the blood flows, such as his shrugging refusal to say whether he believes Romney is a Christian.
Mitt Romney - we shall see if the media believes "flip-flopping" is a fatal flaw the way they did when they used it against John Kerry last time. Mitt Romney strikes me as a plastic man who can mold his beliefs into whatever he thinks the voters want to hear.
John McCain - probably has the most integrity of any of the higher ranking Republicans. Of course, he's changed his stands on a few issues but I'm probably more tolerant of pandering than most people. Politicians have a certain constituency they have to please to gain the nomination and if they refuse to ever bend on even the smallest issues, then they are Ron Paul. That might be an admirable place to be but it means you've given up the idea of winning.
Fred Thompson - still has an outside chance if he kicks it into gear but it doesn't appear that he's interested in giving this race 110 percent, the level of commitment Americans expect from their candidates. We say we have contempt for the politician who'll go anywhere and say anything for a dollar or a vote but we really don't mean it.
Ron Paul - I doubt any but his most loyal supporters would really approve of his hard-line Libertarian views if he really had a chance of winning but good for him for sticking to his principles and shedding some light on a completely different way of looking at issues. He is actually closer to what Republicans used to say they believed in than some of the front-runners - fiscal responsibility, state's rights, no nation building, etc.
Tom Tancredo - only has one issue, immigration, about which he's a fire-breather.
Duncan Hunter - I've watched all the debates and I can't think of anything that distinguishes Duncan Hunter from the rest of the pack.
Over all, the Republicans are pro-war, pro-nukes, pro-torture, pro-Guantanamo, pro-bombing Iran, pro-depriving American children of healthcare. This is the most testosterone-driven field I ever recall. At every debate, I expect them to collectively lower their britches to prove who has the largest testicles.
Hillary Clinton - my first choice. Mainly because I see her as the candidate who "took a lickin' and kept on tickin'" She's experienced and level-headed and has the benefit of Bill Clinton's advice. The 90's were great for me. I'd happily return to the years of budgets in surplus and an effective military. It wasn't that Clinton refused to use the military but he put in place leadership that knew what they were doing, such a General Wesley Clark in Bosnia where we went with a real coalition and accomplished our mission with no loss of life. Hillary is a moderate who has worked with Republicans in the Senate to get things done.
Barack Obama - the media's sweetheart. If good press gets you the nomination, Barack is in. My concern is that he isn't tough enough to take on the Republican machine. He says he doesn't want to be the president of "blue state America or red state America but the United States of America". Does he think the Clinton's didn't come to Washington wanting the same thing? Why does he think that didn't happen? It was because "red state America" had no intention of letting it happen. I doubt if they'd agree to hold hands and sing Kumbaya with Obama either.
John Edwards - I like a lot of John Edwards' ideas, maybe more than anyone else's. I'm a huge supporter of the working class. I like his attention to New Orleans. I like his emphasis on putting people ahead of Big Insurance, Big Banking and Big Pharma. But he's lived in Iowa for the last two years and he's currently third there and he isn't raising money like Hillary and Barack. I think his time passed him by.
Bill Richardson - best resume of the bunch. He's been a governor, an ambassador, a negotiator and effective in all those roles. In a normal presidential year, he'd have a better chance but he suffers from being in a field that contains a couple of superstars. Hard to get any attention when the they are hogging the spotlight.
Joe Biden and Chris Dodd. Smart, knowledgeable, effective senators. Same problem as Richardson. Over-shadowed by Clinton, Obama and to some extent, Edwards. This isn't a year when Americans want old, white senators.
Dennis Kucinich - The Democrats' Ron Paul. It is easy to say exactly what you think when you don't have the same goal as the others, namely, winning the nomination.
Over all, the Democrats have a deep field. If Hillary doesn't win, there isn't any of them I couldn't vote for with enthusiasm.
Comment: I wish we could get away from the Iowa caucuses having so much influence in choosing our eventual nominees. Only a relatively few Iowans participate. Iowa has almost no diversity to speak of, unlike the rest of America. It has no large cities so is unrepresentative of the urban experience. It is top-heavy with rural voters. And yet, mainly because of the media, their choice has a roaring head start for the nomination. There has to be a better way.