Pros and Cons
First there was Mitt Romney, then there was Rick Perry, and then Herman Cain. This was followed by Mitt Romney again, who was followed by Newt Gingrich, Ron Paul, Mitt Romney, and Rick Santorum. One by one, Iowa and the rest of the nation has cycled through almost every major candidate, propelling them to the top of the polls and then moving away from them.
There's a reason why this is happening. While there is no perfect candidate, every major candidate has serious flaws that is causing Iowans and the rest of the nation to abandon their campaign bids. In most cases, these flaws involve the fact that the candidates simply aren't as conservative as they are portraying themselves. Other times, the problems have come from personal histories. Let's look at each one in no particular order.
Governor Romney: So far, this campaign has been characterized as an effort to find someone other than Romney to run against President Obama. However, there are reasons why Republicans keep returning to Romney as the default candidate.
Pros: Experience, Personality: In an age dominated by politicians that can't seem to keep their pants on and haven't had a career outside of politics, Mitt Romney is different. He has a strong moral character that shows in his campaign and in his lack of controversy. His success in the private sector and experience as governor of Massachusetts has been what has kept him as the default choice for the Republican nomination.
Cons: Views, Political History: Although Republicans like the fact that he was governor, they don't like what he did while he was in that office. He campaigned as a liberal to obatin that seat and while seeking a US senate seat in failed bids. He governed largely as a liberal, installing one of the largest state run health care systems in the nation. This system requires everyone to purchase health insurance and then provide those with low incomes with taxpayer funds to make these purchases. Governor Romney calls this type of system a return to personal responsibility.
Along with his record of achievements in Massachusetts comes a history of campaigning on both sides of almost every issue. He's been pro-life and pro-choice, a supporter of mandates and state run insurance and an proponent of free marker health care, he supported gay marriage and opposed it, and he has supported a path to citizenship for illegal aliens and supported US immigration laws.
Newt Gingrich: A decade ago, Newt Gingrich's political career was left for dead. After reeling from ethics scandals, he retired from being Speaker of the House and assumed a career and advising political interests.
Pros: Experience, Intellect: Everyone knows Speaker Gingrich's accomplishments. In the mid 1990's he led a Republican takeover of Congress and then balanced the US budget for years while fighting a Democratic President. At a time when one of the biggest concerns that Americans have is government spending, his resume seems like a perfect match.
At the beginning of the 2012 campaign, it seemed like Gingrich was only being invited to debates out of respect for his past, He wasn't given much attention from the moderators or other candidates and wasn't vocal in attacking anyone in the debates other than the moderator. In the end, this strategy has paid off. He has waited for every other candidate to rise and fall while he developed a pattern of attacking only Obama and the moderators.
Cons: Personal History, Political History: Speaker Gingrich's personal history is well documented under his profile. While this history hasn't been given much discussion in the primary, it will be front and center the moment he wins the nomination. In addition to this, Speaker Gingrich has also developed a history of switching political views to whatever is trendy at that time. He famously sat on the couch with Nancy Pelosi to discuss the need for climate change legislation and he promoted policies that led to the housing crisis and then admonished Fannie and Freddie for causing that problem.
In addition to these flip-flops, he maintains an immigration plan that would grant amnesty to millions of illegal aliens while stating that US citizens should continue to lose freedoms to fight off al-Qaeda. To put it bluntly, aside from reigning in spending, Gingrich's plans are nanny-state policies coupled with incentives to gain votes from Hispanic Americans.
Ron Paul: After decades of being an "also ran," Congressman Paul's libertarian views have finally propelled him to center stage in Iowa and in the rest of the nation. A medical doctor and long time Congressman from Texas, Ron Paul has the most upside for anyone looking for a change and the most down side for any die-hard Republican.
Pros: Contrast with Obama, Change, Consistency: Whether it's war with Iran, keeping Guantanamo Bay open, expanding the TSA apparatus in the US, or creating new health care and education programs in the US, every Republican candidate shares President Obama's views except Ron Paul. Only Congressman Paul can offer a new path for the nation that involves a drastically reduced military industrial complex, a strong return to state's rights in the US, and a true significant reduction in government control and spending. Many of Congressman Paul's positions are also positions that President Obama claimed to support in 2008 but later broke campaign promises. This would include closing Guantanamo, fighting for other nations to play fair in trade agreements, ending the wars without starting new ones, and actually abiding by the constitution.
In addition to strong conservative views, Congressman Paul has a long and well documented record of consistency in these viewpoints. Playing a tape from Congressman Paul's 1980 President run as a Libertarian sounds almost identical to speeches made today.
Cons: Media, Change, Party, Age: As much as Americans claim they want government reduced, the reality is that they want the portion of government that funds them to maintain in place. The same thing that drive people to Congressman Paul also scares them in that they fear that he may actually succeed in cutting the section of government that benefits them. At 76, Congressman Paul would also be one of the oldest Presidents to take office. He would also be one of the most contentious candidates to win a party's nomination. The Republican machine is not in agreement with Congressman Paul's anti-war and and anti military industrial complex beliefs. Coupling this with the fact that the media has decided that if they ignore him then he will go away will make Congressman Paul's nomination and long road that could wear out the Republican machine prior to the general election.
Rick Santorum: Many people didn't notice it until a few days ago, but Senator Rick Santorum is in the election. Heavily invested in Iowa, it seems that Senator Santorum's ground efforts are paying off there.
Pros: Consistency, Personal History: For months, we've been hearing about how well the "Generic Republican" is polling against President Obama. It doesn't get more generic Republican than Senator Santorum. A strong social conservative with an excellent record of being on the correct side of issues such as social security and Iran years before it was fashionable to be there, Senator Santorum has been screaming for attention since the race began and is finally starting to receive his time in the spotlight.
Cons: Boldness, War Stance: The down side of the generic Republican label is that Senator Santorum isn't proposing much in the way of ground breaking plans to insure the country that he would change its course in spending. Focusing on social issues and overseas security, Senator Santorum has not been able to explain how he would reduce spending while increasing military intervention and spending. While this problem is obviously not limited to Senator Santorum, he doesn't possess the business history of Romney or the political history of Gingrich to insure the nation that he would indeed reduce spending.
Rick Perry: Entering the race later than most, Governor Perry shot the top. His star then quickly faded as voters soured on him.
Pros: Political history: The state of Texas has weathered the economic downturn better than most. Governor Perry received a great deal of attention by taking credit for this economic situation. After taking over from Governor Bush when he left to become President, Governor Perry has overseen a boom in wind energy and infrastructure building while claiming to reduce the size and strength of state government.
Cons: Political History: Governor Perry's strengths are also his weaknesses. Despite claiming to oppose illegal immigration, his record shows strong support for amnesty. Despite governing a state that has low regulation, Governor Perry has instituted one of the largest government energy subsidy program in history and changed the funding mechanism for infrastructure to allow most of the state to go into heavy debt to build roads and other items. This, combined with the Gardasil and Trans-Texas Corridor scandals led to a short stay at the top of the nomination list.
Michele Bachmann: One of the most vocal supporters of the conservative ideology, Congresswoman Bachmann has brought the race further to right and attracted a loyal following. However, the size of this following has never been enough to put her in the lead.
Pros: Vocal, Consistent: Congresswoman Bachmann has realized that there is a fight going on with the Republican party between actual conservatives and big government Republicans. She decided to lead the charge for vocal social and fiscal conservatives and has stayed on message for the entire campaign.
Cons: Experience, Strategy: Despite being vocal in her positions, Congresswoman Bachmann hasn't really been in office long enough to establish a history of solid conservative voting. No doubt, her record is longer and more established than Senator Obama's when he won the presidency, and she has proposed a number of pieces of significant legislation on several issues. However, she hasn't been overly successful in finding support for those plans.
Congresswoman Bachmann's pit-bull strategy in the campaign has also caused problems for her. In several debate, she has attacked the other candidates only to find them united in a response that she is not up to date on her facts. This would cause problems from Congresswoman Bachmann in the general election.