My buddy Mike asked not long ago, "have you picked a candidate yet?" I answered, "Yes, but I hate to spoil a blog post by telling you." So, just to keep anyone from dying of curiosity, here's my pre-primary voting plan.
First of all, I'm off the Cain Train. Not because of the allegations of infidelity--I still have zero clue as to whether any or all of those are true. But his inability to ever get a clue on foreign policy finally convinced me that he's like the dog that accidentally caught the car and had no idea what to do with it.
Secondly, although I still believe deep down that Perry must be better in real life than he is on TV, at the end of the day, you can't do a job if you can't get the job. It's like those poor guys who still think Oklahoma State should be in the national championship. They maybe should--but they blew it against IOWA freaking STATE. Likewise, Perry can't tank in three consecutive debates and expect to somehow make it to the big game.
So, like everybody else, I'm stuck with Romney vs. Gingrich. Neither is exactly my cup of tea. Either one could eventually make me regret my decision. But I'm going to stick with Romney. Here's the tortured logic--both of them suffer from a similar political affliction. They think they are the smartest guys in the room (and with some justification), and that they can operate the levers of government to make things work better than anybody else. As such, they are going to make small-government conservatives wince. I don't know which one will disappoint me the most politically, but I feel safe saying that neither one is in any way safer than the other. I actually lean toward thinking that Romney's political opportunism may work to my advantage in the current environment, as he is going to need to pander to the conservatives (and he's an expert when it comes to pandering). To quote Milton Friedman: "The trick is not to elect the right people; it is to create an environment where even the wrong people find it in their interest to do the right thing."
But the deal-breaker for me is personal integrity. At the end of the day, when either or both lets me down in a political sense, I don't want to have to look back and admit I compromised and voted for the guy with two ex-wives. Yes, Newt has asked for forgiveness. And converted to Catholicism. And a bunch of other stuff which should mitigate the situation. That's fine--and if he were a much, much better candidate than Romney, I might even be tempted to accept that. But he's not better--or at least not enough better to make me willing to sell out on such a significant matter.
That said, whichever gets the nomination will earn my vote in the general election. My conscience will not ache at all over voting for even a flawed pro-life conservative over an apparently happily-married pro-choice liberal. If the liberal in question also has his own admitted past moral failings (like cocaine use), that only makes it easier. But for now I'm sticking with the guy who has had the same wife for 40+ years, who hasn't recently changed religions (nor apparently embraced any particular flavor of theology for political advantage), and whose idea of a stiff drink is chocolate milk.