As was reported on this site last week, several potential presidential candidates came to Iowa to test the waters and raise awareness of their intentions. Herman Cain, Newt Gingrich, Tim Pawlenty, Buddy Roemer and Rick Santorum all made pitches to the Iowa Faith and Freedom Coalition gathering. The next day, Santorum and Cain made their way to northwest Iowa for a series of events. I had the pleasure of moderating a panel for the two of them and then having them on my radio show. I was impressed with both of them and see them, at least early on, as viable candidates in the run-up to the straw poll and the caucuses. Right now, no one has declared his or her intentions to seek the Republican nomination for president, so the field is, in my opinion, still wide open. This brings me to the purpose of this article. No DC-based pinhead pundit has any business declaring winners and losers in the race for the nomination, no matter how well intentioned such prognostications might be.
I remember all too well a brash young governor from Arkansas coming from the back of the pack in 1992 to win the presidency in a race that really was not that close. Of course, the Republicans had to deal with a person named Ross Perot who acted the spoiler. Perot denied Clinton 50% of the vote in two elections, but he also denied the Republicans a united front going into either the 1992 or 1996 elections. With the wide streak of independence being displayed in the political environment today, denying, by fiat, one of the “lower tiered candidates” his or her rightful place at the table is not only irresponsible, it is stupid. Yes, I said stupid.
The sense I get from my listeners is that they are looking for specifics from candidates, not the usual bumper sticker, boilerplate, talking points pronouncements we hear far too often. They are hungry for men and women of courage who have a vision for this country that happens to be coincidental with theirs. These are people who want a return to Constitutionally limited government, free markets, fiscal responsibility and a secure nation. We have drifted so far from these ideas that many are willing to climb on any bandwagon where they can find people who are willing to tell us the truth and who are willing to follow through on what is best for this nation.
Name recognition is currently the ball being kicked around by the mainstream media, even here in Iowa. We are familiar with the traditional party politicians found in folks like Gingrich, Huckabee and Barbour (even Palin in some circles). However, machine politicians are exactly why my listeners are so angry about business as usual. These folks from the Republican establishment are going to have trouble winning over the rock-ribbed Republicans found in the northwest part of the state. This is why people like Cain, Pawlenty and Santorum are getting some serious scrutiny up our way. Such “wait and see” thinking is exactly what our conservative family members in DC ought to be considering rather than looking at the prettiest horses and figuring they are the ones who can win.
The old story about the drunk losing his car keys may be appropriate here. When asked if he had lost his keys where he was searching under the light of a street lamp, he responded that “no” he had not lost them there, he thought, but that was where the light was best. Perhaps our friends in the mainstream media are looking where the light is best rather than where the real candidates might be.
It is too early to count anyone out, because right now no one can be counted in. Let us allow the people to have their say, and like our neighbors from Missouri, let the candidates show us who they really are. Then, and only then, can we make informed decisions about who should lead us against the Obama machine. Long live a big field of candidates.
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