I won’t review the GOP candidates’ event on FOX Business last night. John and Paul have already done that. I just want to make a few conclusory observations in the spirit of candid inquiry.
First, a disclaimer. If I could have picked a candidate for 2016, my first choice would have been Rick Perry. He has dealt with the immigration issue. He compiled a formidable record as governor of a successful state. He is conversant with the relevant policy issues. He has good instincts. He is enormously likable. Even without the indictment hanging over him, however, he wouldn’t have gotten off the ground this year. I think it has something to do with the Bush hangover we’re still working through.
After Perry, Scott Walker was probably my number two. He wasn’t ready for prime time.
I say this to acknowledge my shortcomings in the judgment department. Nevertheless, I take myself as a representative conservative Republican voter to whom the candidates are aiming their pitches. I am looking for the rightwardmost viable candidate against Madam Hillary. I respect the opinions of the many readers who disagree with my estimates. There is reasonable ground for disagreement.
At the outset of the process I thought we had a strong field among which to choose. Now I am more aware of the candidates’ various weaknesses from the angle of conservatism or viability against Madam Hillary.
I found the event last night to be useful and clarifying. Watching the undercard, I was impressed by Chris Christie throughout. I thought he belonged with the A team in prime time. Referring to The Hug, one question to be answered by voters like me is the Trollopean question: Can You Forgive Him? I think he is an enormous political talent who at the least — forgive the cliché! — stands to make his competitors step up their games.
I thought the main event last night gave us a glimpse of the candidates who are likely to be the final two for voters like me. I may be mistaken — see above — but I think the final two will be Rubio and Cruz.
John Kasich isn’t the guy. He is out of kontrol. Last night he wasn’t even likable. He was obnoxious. Like Wagner’s music, he’s probably not as bad he sounds (he can’t be, can he?). Without belaboring the point, I’ll simply say that it’s time for him to go.
Rand Paul isn’t the guy. He is simply out of step with those of us who seek to have the United States restore its standing and purpose around the world. I think we represent the heart of the party. Senator Paul is an outlier.
Donald Trump isn’t the guy. I understand his appeal. Indeed, I feel it. I vibrate to his call for the restoration of American greatness. I appreciate his emphasis on the importance of national borders. However, he stands to embarrass those of us who care about the issues that have made him a frontrunner. To adapt Samuel Johnson’s formulation, he is not only vulgar himself, he is the cause of vulgarity in others. He subtracts from the sum total of human knowledge. Not viable.
Ben Carson isn’t the guy. I love and admire him. He simply doesn’t know enough about issues of public policy to speak fluently about them or to be a credible candidate for president. Not viable.
Carly Fiorina probably isn’t the lady. On the Obamacare question last night, she had essentially nothing to say. My reaction to her last night: not viable.
Jeb Bush isn’t the guy. As far as 2016 is concerned, he never has been. On immigration, he seems to me just about as out of step with the heart of the party as Paul is on defense. Even if that judgment is wrong, I think we are still working through our Bush hangover. See above.
Both Rubio and Cruz had good nights. Neither of them is a perfect candidate. For voters like me Rubio also raises the Trollopean question. For voters like me Cruz aims to be the rightwardmost. However, I have serious concerns about his viability against Madam Hillary. Governor Christie belongs with them in the final three.
That’s where I am after last night.