This post was going to be a lot longer when I first planned it, but would have ended with a thought that I was thankful NY was not the first state to have its primary so the other states could weed out a few of my choices. This they have done, and now I don't need to go into details about a number of other candidates. This will, I'm sure, be good news for readers as well as the readee.
The main criteria I'm looking for:
0) First and foremost, there has to be some basic honesty and goodness or I can't vote for them, no matter what their stances on anything else. Joy quips, "Therefore, no voting."
1) Getting anything done in politics is about compromise, and so I don't expect perfect consistency, but I do want to see evidence of a few core values that they do not abandon and really work towards.
2) This election cycle I care more about foreign policy than economy, and I would like someone with experience of the kind that will help in the current crises abroad we face.
2.5) To the best of my knowledge, NO ONE has a good understanding of economics, so it can't be much of a filter. They've all said some incredibly stupid things. A pity, but that's what advisers are for, I guess.
3) I really would like to vote for someone who has some chance of toning down the partisanship and extreme rhetoric of the last 16 years.
Just for fun, let me mention the Democrats first. I listened to one of their debates on NPR earlier in the election cycle and actually heard some halfway decent things. It was a pity to me that Dodd and Biden lost so quickly. Not that they had much chance against rock star power, but, unlike Clinton, Obama, and Edwards, they actually had the significant experience the others try to claim, and I thought they made several good points during the debate. To me, Edwards and Obama each have a couple good points so that, though I would likely disagree with how they would accomplish their goals, they at least have a couple worthy goals I could praise them on and support. I am of the opinion that Clinton is still as congenital a liar as ever, willing to do, say, or be anything for her/their own aggrandizement. It astounds me that anyone can consider the woman who wanted to nationalize 1/5 of the US economy as a centrist. But I didn't come here to discuss that. So I'm willing to consider and look deeper into Obama or Edwards if the Dems put them up. That's the happier, friendlier thought.
On the Republican side, I've been in general dissatisfied, but not averse to the candidates. I mean, no one is going to be my ideal of a perfect candidate because they would have to believe everything I do, and that would include that politics corrupts people, so they wouldn't even run in the first place. So I recognize that it is necessary to be reasonable without "holding my nose" as I vote.
I'm thankful Guiliani is out. He had too many moral ambiguities for me to support him. The way he has treated his families, his dishonesty with taxpayer money, the company he keeps, all speak against him.
I may share a number of Libertarian sympathies and admire his firm stance on what he believes in, but the fact of the matter is that Ron Paul 'scared' me during the debates I saw him in. He has absolutely the wrong foreign policy for America at any time. Though there is some truth in it (no, we shouldn't go forcing our foreign policy on other countries just because we're bigger), we can't be isolationist either, especially not now. From my reading of his website, he has a very poor understanding of monetary policy despite sitting on the committee that oversees the Fed. That suggests obstinacy more than integrity informs his opinions, and that also is a concern in a President.
So then there are the three guys I actually have considered voting for in the primaries. I call myself undecided because I've been waffling between McCain, Romney, and Huckabee the whole time. Each of them has a demonstrated set of core values they hold to. McCain and Romney have experience working across the aisle and Huckabee's "folksy" manners (as every news report takes pains to remind me) make him appeal to a broad set of people. None of them really has the stellar conservative record I'd like to see -- Huckabee raised taxes on numerous occasions, Romney has some ambiguities his supporters have not been able to satisfy me on, and McCain may work across the aisle, but does it have to always be with the most liberal senators?
Of the three, I think McCain has the best foreign policy experience and in his admission that he doesn't understand economics, would be more likely to turn to advisers. As I've reconsidered his immigration and campaign finance reforms, I've begun to see some of the wisdom in what he has been proposing. He has had a sensible, fairly consistent stance on the war, and I appreciate his desire to cut spending as well as taxes. At the moment, I think I'm leaning towards casting my vote for him, and I've been leaning that way for a couple weeks now, so it may stick.
I loved Romney's religion speech. It was the best thing to come out of the campaign. I intend to do some more research on Monday to get at his foreign policy and econ views. Naturally, every article I've read has just focused on his religion. The funny thing to me is that his supporters who I've spoken to locally don't give the same answer he does as to what caused his switch of views on abortion et al. Fairly early in the election, he cited an experience he had that changed his mind. This was a remarkable admission for a candidate to me -- to actually admit a change and cite a reason for it rather than glossing it over is a welcome change. But then his supporters try to encourage me that, since he was called as a Stake President [who oversees several local congregations] about the same time as he was governor, he can't have held those views in Mass when he announced to voters he was running to the left of Kennedy. "He was just saying that to get elected. It's the politics game. These are his Real views," they tell me. But I know that when a stake pres is chosen, there is no litmus test where they ask views on abortion and gay marriage, and it is very worrisome to me that his supporters imagine a LIAR could serve as stake president and not a person who holds different political views. And if he is willing to outright lie for political gain, how different is he from Clinton?
My one complaint about Romney's news coverage has been how upset everyone is that he is "too" squeaky clean. What on earth is wrong with having someone as President who is actually morally clean and upstanding, who treats the only wife he ever had with respect, whose children love him, and has done good service in his community?? He's a nice guy, and that's a good thing.
Huckabee hasn't really been keeping up on foreign policy, telling reporters incorrect things about the world situation that changed two weeks previous. His economic stances show increases and decreases in taxes. Joy is very gratified that he is willing to mention Jesus and the Bible in debates and stand for his beliefs. I liked him at first for that and his claims to be the Reagan heir-apparent (a claim every Republican has to make, sort of like being the Candidate of Change), but have just found his record more mixed and spotty than I'd really like.
So there I am right now, and that's why I'm leaning towards McCain, but that could change after I scour the three websites for some more specific viewpoints I haven't heard yet in the sound bites and to give the candidates the chance to really speak at more length at their and my leisure. Comments, as always on our blog, are welcome.