Republican candidates held their first debate in Iowa last Thursday. Noman watched with rapt attention, and came away pretty pleased at the free-wheeling spectacle. Newt Gingrich laid into the panel of journalists for asking "gotcha!" questions. Michelle Bachmann absolutely pulled Tim Pawlenty's pants down around his ankles for laying into her. He started out well by going after the President, but then got inexplicably nasty with Bachmann. Scratch him. Mitt Romney looked like a front-runner with very good handlers, who can take care of himself in a fight. If only he wasn't so slick. Ron Paul was absolutely delightful as the loose cannon who shares much with the left, though from the right. Rick Santorum looked like a man Noman might differ with, but would trust with his life. Herman Cain will make a great Treasury Secretary. John Huntsman looked like a man with a secret, and not a conservative one.
Since then, Michelle Bachman has won the Iowa straw poll (congratulations to her), Rick Perry has entered the race, and talk is bubbling that Paul Ryan might run. The great unanswered question is what Sarah Palin's plans are. This all strikes Noman as simply great, and reminds him of the Paul Tsongas class of '92 out of which President Clinton emerged. Of course, that year, President George Bush the 1st was popular with the people, but not with the media. This year, it's exactly the opposite.
It seems to Noman that the field contains quite a few combinations that will be stronger in tandem than any candidate standing alone. For instance, front-runner Romney looks Presidential, but there's something untrustworthy about him. How did RomenyCare win his approval? Why does he lean leftward--Democrat--on the social issues? Will he just be another tool of big finance and the Fortune 500? The Governor can ease all these concerns and others about his slickness by selecting Rick Santorum as his running mate. What could provide better balance than an honest man of integrity and traditional values, and moreover one with Senate experience?
Or, say Sarah Palin gets into the fight to capture the nomination. She could balance her principle and determination to help the little guy by choosing Newt Gingrich, a very smart man with a very fast mouth who makes up for what he lacks in scruples with experience and understanding of the legislative process. Noman assumes that Newt can't win the nomination simply because conservatives will never trust anyone who backed Dede Scozzafava to the hilt; and liberals will never crossover to vote in primaries for the scourge of '94.
Noman likes Ron Paul's principle, but thinks he's a bit of a simpleton (Noman also thinks Rick Santorum blemished an otherwise sterling performance by pointing that out). While it may sound comforting to let states decide on the question of gay marriage, Mitt Romney capably articulated why the nation needs a unified law on the matter: people move, what happens if a gay spouse dies after a move to traditional marriage state, etc. While it may be fine to say that America started hostilities in Iran by installing the Shah in the 1950's, it's a little too Carteresque to just pull out and let the chips fall where they may. If Paul should win the nomination as a reaction to President Obama's statist preferences, he'd be reasonably well served by selecting a running mate like Michelle Bachmann, a principled conservative who doesn't shy away from a fight.
Anyway, Noman would vote for any of these people just to put the national nightmare of governance by Democrats behind us. He hopes that the party will pick a champion of conservative principles--cultural, economic, traditional--to lead the nation, and was heartened by what he saw on the Iowa stage last week.