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Simplified but not simple

This is the first election in which more than perhaps three people have had any curiosity at all about which candidate I support. Yet, to my great frustration, for the first time I’ve been unable to decide. The problem has been that the strengths and weaknesses of four candidates in a pretty good field seem to cancel each other out in an almost diabolical way.
After I attended a dinner event for Romney April 2006, I was ready to embrace his candidacy. But learning about his frequent changes in position gave me pause. Fred Thompson was a more consistent conservative, but his stumbling campaign reinforced doubts about his administrative ability, and his prospects for the general election did not seem bright.
No one could legitimately doubt Rudy Giuliani’s administratively ability, and for a time he did well in head-to-head polls against Hillary Clinton. But, in addition to being a liberal on certain social issues, Rudy carries plenty of personal baggage making me wonder (as Scott put it) whether there would be anything left once the Clintons got done with him. Indeed, before long, Rudy was running well behind Hillary in the polls.
John McCain is a social conservative, and as close to invulnerable to the Clinton smear machine as one can be. He’s the only Republican contender who still does well in head-to-head polls with Democrats. But he does well mostly because of his well-earned reputation as a maverick who is willing to reject key conservative positions with relish and fanfare.
Alone among the five top contenders, Mike Huckabee did not strike me presidential material, for reasons that I’ve often stated.
After tonight, the contest likely will be down to Romney vs. McCain. But, although the race has been simplified, for me the choice still isn’t simple. Every time it looks like McCain will break away from the pack, I panic in anticipation of four years of watching him stick it to conservatives on a more than occasional basis. When things seem to be breaking Romney’s way, I panic in anticipation of an electoral rout in November followed by four years of a Clinton or Obama presidency.
Today, Florida Republicans are asked to make this call, but my turn is coming soon.
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