In a recent article in the Wall Street Journal, a New Hampshire man stated that while he doesn't like Herman Cain's 999 plan, and disagrees with him on some other points, after watching the New Hampshire debate, he's decided to support Herman Cain. You might think this is contradictory. How can you support a candidate when you disagree with his signature proposal? Because we aren't electing a proposal. We're electing a President.
While there is a segment of the voting population that is single issue focused or so dedicated to their party, that they will support whoever carries their banner, regardless of the candidate, elections are decided by the 40% or so who actually consider and weigh the pros and cons of the individual. Who will be the best leader among the available candidates?
MIchele Bachmann is on the right side of virtually every issue when it comes to Conservatives, Tea Party supporters and Republicans in general, yet she's plummeted in the polls. Why? I think the last straw was when she made a big production out of acknowledging Elvis Presley's birthday, to the extent that her bus was blaring an Elvis Presley song as it pulled up to the stop. Trouble was, it was actually the anniversary of his death, not his birthday. If this had been an isolated mistake, she probably could have skated by. But this was one of a string of innaccurate statements over a period of months. Her demise wasn't that she made a mistake. It was that she was unable or unwilling to correct an obvious weakness in her own campaign; fact checking. She demonstrated incompetence as a leader, to a degree the voters found unacceptable.
Rick Perry could have overcome opposition to his stance on illegal immigration. But rather than displaying confidence and passion, he displayed confusion as to why people didn't already agree with him and scorned his detractors. His inability to confidently address his critics showed poor leadership characteristics and he's paying the price.
Ron Paul is almost a one issue guy. He hates the Federal Reserve. He's right about a lot of things, but when you look at his delivery and imagine him negotiating with world leaders during a crisis, well, let's just say it's not a pretty picture. As a Presidential candidate, he makes a good Congressman.
Rick Santorum has some good ideas and seems like a nice enough guy, but his presentation screams "Why won't anybody listen to me." Again, not a vision of a strong leader of the most powerful country on Earth.
John Huntsman is running his primary campaign as if he's in a general election contest. He seems to be trying to appeal to moderates. Trouble is moderates are folks who are not particularly passionate and probably wont go out of their way to vote in a primary. You can't be a champion moderate. You can be a champion that's acceptable to moderates. There's a big difference.
Mitt Romney is the safe candidate. A lot of Republicans have issues with Romneycare in Massachusetts, but they're willing to put that aside because he does display leadership skills. He looks confident, passionate, and can handle critics without losing his cool or being dismissive. He may not be the most free market guy on the bill, but they perceive him as better than the current occupant of the White House and reasonably adequate, if not their dream candidate.
Cain presents an image of a man who's lived the American dream. He's a likable guy, he's been in leadership positions during times of crisis and has a track record of success. Even when people disagree with a particular proposal, his ideas are at least well thought out and reasonable enough to merit consideration. They seem to be okay with his though process if not every one of his thoughts.
I think Newt Gingrich is running the best example of a candidate presenting himself as himself. He's very relaxed, yet passionate and confident in the ideas he supports. He is uncompromising and unapologetic, yet cool under pressure. He makes you believe that he believes every word he says. Essentially he's saying "This is me. Here are my ideas. Vote for me or don't." A pretty fair proposal I'd say. He may not win, but it wont be because he made a lot of mistakes, it will simply be because the voters liked someone else better.
It's fun to get on the candidates social pages and read the Jerry Springer like back and forth. It's heated and people go at it as if adherence to every word their candidate says is imperative or a bad idea from an opposing candidate will be their swan song. But we're not electing a king and the people who decide the next election aren't going to be voting for a tax plan, or a foreign policy position, or a stance on this issue or that. They're going to be voting for the person they believe will be the best leader of the United States, from among the available applicants over the next four years. They're going to be voting for a candidate.