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Judson Phillips at Tea Party Nation has put some thought into the field of presidential possibilities.  Interesting stuff here.  I don’t agree with him on every point — maybe you won’t either.  But take a look.  It’s food for thought…

CPAC and its straw poll probably represent the official start of the Republican primary.  Most all of the candidates who are serious about running were there.  Some did well.  In fact, I can’t think of any that did really poorly.   Over the last couple of days, I have gotten emails from people asking me TPN’s position on the candidates.

Right now, TPN is not endorsing any of the candidates.  In 2010, we decided we were not going to endorse candidates where there were two or more good conservative candidates fighting it out.  We are reconsidering that decision and may come out at a later date and endorse someone.

However, as anyone who has read my blogs knows, I have strong opinions on almost everything.   So I thought I would do my personal straw poll on the potential candidates for 2012.

At this point, I remain undecided who will get my support.  There are some that I can tell you will not receive my support and there are some that it is unlikely I would ever say yes to.  There are still others I could support and a few I really like.  That is how I am breaking down this poll.  As I look at this, I am thinking about two factors.   First, are they really conservative?  Do they really support our Tea Party values?  Second, and in many ways almost as important, are they electable?  It is pointless to have a candidate we agree with 100% if that candidate, for whatever reason, is unelectable.  If I have to choose between an unelectable 100% candidate and an electable 90%, I am going for the 90%.  90% is certainly better than four more years of Zero!

Starting with those whose candidacy is unsupportable or is DOA.

Mitt Romney. He is the quintessential RINO.   In Massachusetts, he gave them “Romneycare”.   He tried to run for the Senate to the left of Ted Kennedy.  I generally oppose a third party but I would have to look very hard at a third party if Romney were the GOP nominee.

Gary Johnson. Is he kidding?  He is the former governor of New Mexico who is pro abortion, pro gay rights, and pro marijuana.  He has about the same chance of becoming the GOP nominee as I do.  And I am not running!

John Huntsman. The RINO Obama ambassador to China?  Is he like the “Rent is too damn high” candidate?

Chris Christie. I really like Chris Christie.  He is doing some remarkable things in New Jersey.  If he were running he would be much higher.  But he said he is not running.

Alan West. West rocked the close at CPAC.  He is a rising star and I expect to see him moving up in the next few years.  However, he is a freshman congressman this year and needs more time on the national scene.   Look at some point in the future to see an enthusiastic endorsement of West from me.  Also, he’s not running.

Rand Paul. As a freshman senator, he came in and started making waves.   His proposal to cut $500 billion from the budget, though it had no chance, was an outstanding start (with the exception of the cuts he wants for military spending).  He is not running though there is a draft Rand Paul committee out there.  Again, if he were running, he would be much higher.

Ron Paul. Fortunately, this is one Paul whose candidacy is DOA.  He has no chance and that is a good thing.  Yesterday, Young Americans for Freedom kicked Ron Paul out of its advisory group because of his bizarre alliance with leftist peace activists and his refusal to support going after those responsible for 9/11 and for not denouncing the truthers in his base of supporters.

Tim Pawlenty. Tim who?  He is the former governor of Minnesota.  He got 4% at CPAC but remains mostly unknown.   The next President maybe from Minnesota, but it won’t be Pawlenty.

Rick Perry. Perry has started a national tour, but he is a moderate.  He is not strong on cutting taxes, nor on social issues and favors importing workers from Mexico.

Here is the list of candidates who are not my first choice but who I might be able to pull the lever for.

Newt Gingrich. Since he left congress ten years ago, Gingrich has been a Washington insider.  I still have not forgotten that commercial he did, sitting on the park bench with Nancy Pelosi.   Gingrich would have to do a lot before I enthusiastically support him.

Mike Huckabee. Huckabee is right on social issues and wrong on fiscal issues.  He supports “a path to citizenship” for illegals and that is just about the kiss of death in my mind.   If I had to choose between him and Obama, he would get my vote.  It would just take ten minutes for me to force myself to push that button.

Mitch Daniels. His speech at CPAC has clearly raised his stock.  A lot of people are talking about him now.  The reaction from Indiana is mixed.  A lot of people in Indiana give him low marks because he did not stand up to the unions and make Indiana a right to work state.  He is soft on immigration and has bought into the “Green energy” myth.

John Bolton. The former UN ambassador is making waves in Tea Party circles.  He is blunt and outspoken.  His credentials are in the foreign policy realm but is saying some things that cause some in conservative circles concern.  He favored repeal of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell and favors gay marriage, which could doom his chances in the GOP.

Here are the candidates I could support but do not make the cut to the top tier.

Sarah Palin. Aside from Michele Bachmann, no candidate did more in 2010 to be associated with the Tea Party movement.  From being the headliner at the National Tea Party convention last year to making numerous Tea Party appearances, Sarah Palin has tried very hard to identify her brand with the Tea Party movement.  So why isn’t she higher in my straw poll?  There are three reasons. First, she came out in support of GOProud at CPAC.  My issues with GOProud have been documented here before so I won’t rehash them.  Second, she has said in the past she supports, “a path to citizenship.”  She has not come out and opposed amnesty.  Finally, there is the electability issue.  For better or worse, other than Barack Obama, she may be the most recognized and well-known politician in America. Almost everyone who knows of her has an opinion of her.  She is one of very few Republican candidates that Barack Obama beats in the polls.   Palin’s problem is she is so well known it is hard for her to pick up any new traction.  Hillary Clinton had the same problem in 2008.  The difference for Palin in 2011/12 will be that she will not have the same friendly lap dog Hillary had, namely the drive-by media beating their drum of support.

Haley Barbour. The Governor of Mississippi is the good old boy everyone wants to invite to the neighborhood cookout.  He has that old southern charm, but unfortunately that is not enough.  As a former chair of the RNC, he does have the connections to run a good race.  Unfortunately, he has not shown a commitment to rolling back socialism and he is soft on amnesty.

The TOP tier. These are the candidates who I am looking at right now.

Michele Bachman. Bachman has been with the Tea Party movement since the beginning. She started a Tea Party Caucus in the House and is right on almost all of the issues.   She does run against the old rule that someone from the House of Representatives cannot get elected President.  (James Garfield was the only President to come directly from the House of Representatives and that was 1880!).

John Thune. If he runs, he is a solid conservative.  Thune’s biggest problem is going to be name recognition.  The conservative base will know him but few outside of activists and South Dakota residents will.  But he has time, if he runs.

Jim DeMint. Next month, he is going to give a speech in Iowa.  He has said he is not running but all things are subject to change. DeMint single handedly stopped Harry Reid’s attempt to shove a massive budget bill through in December.  He has been dubbed the Tea Party Senator and is right on all of the issues.

Herman Cain. The former Godfather’s Pizza executive had a huge role in the defeat of Hillarycare back in the 90’s.  He is a syndicated columnist and a radio talk show host.  Though he has never held elective office, he is right on the issues and would be a formidable opponent to Obama.  His business experience is also a significant plus, as unlike Obama, Cain has actually created jobs.

The wild card:

Donald Trump. Let’s be blunt.  Trump is a businessman not a conservative.  He is an incredibly talented businessman.  He has not only name recognition that surpasses Sarah Palin’s, his favorability ratings are much higher too.  Some experts have said Obama will spend a billion dollars on his reelection campaign.  Trump, out of his own personal wealth can write a check that will instantly level the playing field, regardless of how many illegal contributions Obama gets.    The down side for conservatives is that Trump is not a conservative.  He recently gave $50,000 to Rahm Emanuel’s campaign to become Chicago Mayor.   He does take on the Chinese squarely, saying they are not our friends and out to harm America.  Right now, his positions on so many issues are unknown.  Trump has flirted with a presidential run before.  This time he is serious.   Who knows what he could do.

This year, conservatives are in the enviable position of having a number of good candidates to choose from.  We also have a number of candidates out there that could destroy the conservative movement.  We need to choose the candidate we are going to support. But, this time, we must choose carefully.

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