The Iowa caucuses aren’t going to resolve much of anything on the Republican side tonight. The race for the nomination seems certain to remain a three-way race among three plausible candidates. Each of them is formidable in his own way, and each has strengths that roughly offset his weaknesses. That is to say, each has substantial weaknesses. Conservatives are perhaps more than usual placed in the position of choosing the least worst among them.
The editors of National Review made the case for Mitt Romney in their editorial endorsement. It is a case that is worthy of serious consideration. One gets the sense, however, that the editors are acting in a fiduciary capacity as trustees of the modern conservative movement. Their endorsement lacks great enthusiasm. Their case for Romney remains muted, a study in contrasts with Romney’s intraparty opponents.
At NRO senior editor Rick Brookhiser makes the case for Rudy Giuliani. Brookhiser warms to his case for Giuliani with critiques of both John McCain and a Mitt Romney. He makes a strong case for Giuliani, but he does not consider the downside. Unlike his NR editorial colleagues, Brookhiser fails to address the effects a Giuliani candidacy would have on the conservative movement.
Also at NRO Victor Davis Hanson makes the case for John McCain and all but endorses him. (Last week Jeff Jacoby similarly assessed McCain in a column for the Boston Globe.) Hanson forthrightly acknowledges McCain’s ideological waywardness, but declares that the case for McCain “transcends ideology.”
The case for McCain may “transcend ideology” in a sense, but it does so of necessity. It seems to me that the case for McCain submerges ideology in the person of McCain. McCain himself is unpredictable, though it can be predicted with certainty that he would make conservatives uncomfortable as the standard bearer of the Republican Party. He is not a party man; he conceives of himself as bigger than any party.
Even if any one of these three candidates were not in the race, I would still be undecided.
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