I've been meaning to comment a bit on the Presidential race, which has been an interesting see-saw, with first one candidate then another appearing to be the front runner for each party.
On the Democratic side, I am a bit undecided about the race, since the only candidate I had any respect for (Bill Richardson) is pretty much out of it and could be a likely Veep for whichever of the other candidates eventually wins out. None of the leading Democrats running have any significant experience, with only Hillary having served more than one Senate term. Of course, she hangs her hat on 8 years as First Lady, but she had no real official policy making or advisory position in the administration, with the lone exception of Healthcare Reform, which was a bad idea that went no where, and on which she apparently feels strongly enough to emphasize again in her candidacy. As several pundits have pointed out, being someone's wife (even in a close relationship, which I tend to believe isn't the case with the Clintons) doesn't automatically allow the spouse to presume the husband's professional role.
As far as Obama and Edwards go, both are not only even more ridiculously underqualified than Hillary, they both appear to be woefully ignorant of even the basic tenets of sound economic policy. Don't even get me started on their foreign policy views, I want to keep this short.
On the other side of the aisle, we have several candidates that appear to have the requisite experience to lead the nation, but almost all of them have some flaws. While I generally vote Republican, I don't always, and there are a couple of these candidates for which I would have to seriously question casting a ballot.
Governor Mike Huckabee has executive experience, and appears to be a good pro-life Christian gentleman, but has some very odd policy positions for a Republican - he's anti-free trade, raised taxes in his state considerably, and is almost Carteresque in his foreign policy views. Yet he won Iowa and is running pretty well nationally.
My grade for him is an F.
John McCain has a wealth of experience in the Senate, has voted to control spending, is a genuine (rather than make-believe) war hero, and has the type of foreign policy and miltary experience that makes him an attractive candidate - however, there is that Freedom of Speech thing, the judges deal, the immigration issue, the fact he has voted against tax cuts and several other issues that make me question whether or not you can call him a Republican - indeed, there has been talk that he might switch parties at some points in the past - perhaps even as John Kerry's running mate. While not as bad as Huck, he definitely leaves alot to be desired, grading him a C- only for taking a principaled stand on the war, which is the definitive national issue. Many fellow bloggers dislike him even more than I. McCain is the current front runner right now with a win in New Hampshire, running well in Michigan, South Carolina and nationally.
Mitt Romney has not only government executive experience, but private sector experience as well. He is also proposing many of the right things on economic policy, social issues, and immigration - but on all those issues, his position has "evolved" since beginning his career in the political process. Simply put, I have to doubt the veracity of those beliefs, and I also have to question whether or not we want to have a wealthy candidate giving at least the appearance of trying to buy an election with his vast personal fortune. While he cut taxes, he raised regulatory and licensing fees in Massachussets, and his commitment to the 2nd Amendment is questionable to say the least. While probably better than McCain in general, and definitely better than Huckabee, I have to barely pass him with a C+.
Romnye finished second in both Iowa and NH, and is running nose to nose with Mac in Michigan.
This leads us to Mayor Rudy Guiliani, which I strongly considered early in the race, and whom I have heard speak personally at one of those odd business seminars that they stage on occaisson. I liked what I heard, then did some research. There is a lot to like about the Mayor, particularly on the economic front, and he has a strong law and order reputation. You have to also make the case he would make a strong foreign policy stand. Some of his social views are questionable, but those aren't factors I consider strongly. However, he does have some troubling issues, starting with (again) the 2nd Amendment, and you have to wonder about how strong his commitment to stopping illegal immigration really would turn out to be if elected. He passes with a B- due to getting the biggest issues (war/foreign policy & the economy) right, but mostly blowing it on much of the rest, particulary 2A. Rudy's been pretty invisible in the early states with the idea of focusing on Florida next week.
Then we have the best of the bunch, someone that I have supported from day one (and even before he announced) - Fred Thompson. On issues, he is pretty spectacular, giving us detailed (and excellent) policy positions on foreign policy, rebuilding the military, illegal immigration, tax policy, spending, entitlement reform, judges, and the 2nd Amendment, issues on which he is almost always spot on. The one minor weakness is his orignal support for McCain-Feingold, which he has since labelled as a well-intentioned mistake, which I can readily accept in exchange. His support for tax reform, an optional Flat Tax and cut in the corporate tax rates (along with a host of other tax proposals) is simply outstanding economic policy. Another important philosophical tenet of Fred's is his support for Federalism and the Constitutional rights of states and their citizens to decide some issues for themselves, reigning in the reach of the national government, which is simply icing on the cake in my view.
I have to grade Fred the only A of the mainstream candidates, (although I would give Congressman Duncan Hunter a solid Honorable mention grade of B) and I will openly state I've given him more of my hard earned dollars than any candidate in my entire life. I generally have given $10-15 contributions in the past. While not be any means a wealthy person, I've contributed far over that to Fred in both single contributions and in sum total hit a figure well into three digits.
Can he win? I don't know, he put a lot of effort into Iowa garnering third there, and has picked South Carolina as his next big effort and raised over $1 million to campaign strongly there. The last Rasmussen poll showed him 4th behind McCain, Huckabee and Romney but moving up four points into a statistical tie for 2nd at 16%, evidently drawing support from Huckabee, who dropped five points from the previous poll. Michigan votes today with McCain and Romney neck and neck, I'm not sure what Huckabee's strategy is, while the Mayor's has long been to focus on Florida to stop the other candidates' momentum, generate his own and move on to Super Tuesday.
If nothing else, it will prove to be an intersting race on both sides.