Iowa Caucus Countdown: Shane’s Short List



The clock is ticking and the Iowa Caucus is fast approaching.  I would like to have my mind made up by November 7th for my *coveted* personal endorsement (for those of you who think I’m taking myself too seriously,  the asterisks mean I’m being sarcastic).   It isn’t a lot of time, but I do want to get behind a candidate for that final push.

Yesterday, I shared with you who I’ve scratched off the list.  Here’s my short list of candidates I’m still considering caucusing for on January 3rd.  In sharing this list I recognize that they all have blemishes.  In determining my short list I’m looking at worldview/convictions, record, competency, communication ability and strength of their organization.

In alphabetical order:

Michele Bachmann:  Congresswoman Bachmann has had a solid record.  She has demonstrated herself to be a solid social conservative, fiscal conservative and defense conservative.  Her voting record in Congress has been solid.  She has been a champion for repealing Obamacare and has been consistent on our need for spending cuts and dealing with the national debt.  She is a friend of Israel and realizes that while we can not be the world’s policeman our security comes through strength.  I’ve been impressed with the interviews I’ve had with her and I recognize that she and I share a similar worldview.  She impressed me at the American Principles Project’s Palmetto Freedom Forum, but not as much at the Iowa Faith & Freedom Coalition Presidential Forum.  She also has the ability to motivate the base.

My areas of concern with Bachmann are several.  She’s had a lot of staff turnover and upheaval.  Yesterday one change was made that I think is incredibly positive – she made Eric Woolson her Iowa Campaign Manager.  That should have happened as soon as he was brought on the campaign.  Kent Sorenson just doesn’t have the statewide track record that Woolson has.  Even so, she had a reputation of burning through staff in Congress and it seems like that is also happening with her campaign.  Because of this I question her preparedness to lead.

I’m also concerned with the potential for gaffes.  She made one in my last interview with saying that she didn’t say late term abortion was a state issue when she was videoed saying that.  Also her Gardisil comments also hurt.  She hasn’t been overly impressive in the debates; I haven’t seen the depth from her that I’ve seen with say Santorum and Gingrich.

Newt Gingrich: Two months ago Speaker Gingrich wouldn’t have been on this list.  I thought he was completely done with no hope of return.  He has surprised me.  Not only has he seen some traction in the polls, but his debate performances have been stellar.  He also wowed me at the Palmetto Freedom Forum and at the Iowa Faith & Family Coalition Presidential Forum.  He has offered the most substantive plan of any candidate.  He’s shown himself on numerous occasions to be the smartest guy in the room, and he is the policy wonk of the field.  One topic I’d like to highlight – he is absolutely spot on in his assessment of the judicial branch.

The proper role of the judiciary must be restored, and until it is it will be difficult, if not impossible, to see true governmental reform, see abortion outlawed, limit the size of government, etc.  Gingrich is the only candidate to suggest several ways this can be done beyond the token “I’ll appoint strict constructionist judges.”  That’s important, but when you have so many activist judges on the bench with lifetime appointments seeing a change by just appointing the right judges will not happen fast enough (if at all).

His communication ability is superb, and if he were the nominee I would look forward to seeing him debate President Obama.

My areas of concern with Speaker Gingrich are threefold.

1. His character, his being married three times and history of infidelity bother me.  A lot.  I am not going to question his statements that he has changed, and I believe all people with the grace of God can rise above their past.  What I would like to know is this.  If your ex-wives couldn’t trust you why should we?  What steps have you taken to ensure that you are guarding your heart and stay above reproach?  Basically, what accountability measures do you have in place?

2. His campaign organization.  He didn’t have a table at the Iowa Faith & Freedom Coalition Presidential Forum.  He doesn’t have much (if any) campaign apparatus here in Iowa.  How will he turn out the vote?

3. His establishment tendencies.  Dede Scovafazza anyone?  While he now recognized that endorsement was a mistake I have to wonder if he’s willing to take on his own party if need be.

Then there is his support of an individual mandate and rejection of the Ryan plan.  However, he does want to repeal Obamacare and enforce the Tenth Amendment.  Like I said before there are no perfect candidates.

Rick Perry:  Texas Governor Rick Perry caught my attention with a powerful speech at CPAC with a renewed focus on the 10th Amendment.  Pitting his record of job creation to President Obama’s provides an excellent contrast.  He has a solid record of challenging federal mandates.  He has executive experience and characteristics that should make him a solid opponent.  He also came out very strong on life at the Iowa Faith & Freedom Coalition forum and may have breathed new life into his campaign.

He released his economic plan “Cut, Balance, and Grow” which includes a 20% flat tax plan.  Prior to this he was endorsed by Steve Forbes which lends credibility to his economic plan.

Some areas of concern… the Gardisil mandate is troublesome.  He has performed dismally in the debates, and is considering skipping out on the rest (which would be a bad move).  He doesn’t appear to be as strong on immigration as the other candidates, and the in-state tuition for children of illegal aliens was a bad move.  One of our contributors, David Shedlock, pointed out other problems with his record.  To be fair to Governor Perry, Gardisil wasn’t the only decision he has made.  He has a pretty vast record that voters should explore and not just cherry pick certain items.

Rick Santorum: Senator Santorum has campaigned the hardest here in Iowa bar none.  He is on track to finish visiting all of Iowa’s 99 counties by November 4th.  Nobody else has even come close to that.  He has also been the champion for traditional values in the field.  Even when other social conservatives have been reluctant to discuss the family, Santorum has not shied away, not even a little.  He has done the best job at articulating my worldview.  I’ve been in one on-the-record meeting with Senator Santorum, and I’ve been able to interview him twice.  I’ve come away impressed.  He’s likable.  He’s at ease.  He goes beyond talking points and gives substantive answers.

What I think many tend to miss when hearing about his defense of the family and traditional values is that he has a solid record of fiscal conservatism (he had an instrumental role in reforming welfare and his manufacturing jobs plan is well thought out) and has been sound on foreign policy.  He has proven both to be strengths in the debates thus far.  The debate that first brought that out was his exchange with Ron Paul during the Iowa GOP-Fox News Debate.  He has not had a bad debate yet, and I believe his last performance was solid.  He also did well at the Iowa Faith & Family Coalition Presidential forum.  Also organizationally he recently announced that he has 189 Caucus Captains to help turn out the vote in Iowa.  In New Hampshire he recruited 83 Primary captains.  You can’t do things like that if you don’t have any type of ground game.

Some areas of concern for me.  There’s the Arlen Specter and Mitt Romney endorsements.  His vote in favor of No Child Left Behind.  He’s been forthright in addressing these “clunkers.”  Probably my primary concern is time, he doesn’t have much time to close the gap in Iowa.  He’s campaigned here the most, and has received favorable reactions, but it doesn’t seem to translate to polling number.  Something I’m sure is an item of frustration for his campaign.

Now I face the hard task of narrowing down my list of four to one.

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  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_LB3LDHWZXK7GXIW6DYVOYSVPHE SJ

    Good analysis.  The problem is that none of these 4 has much of a chance at the nomination, much less the presidency.  That doesn’t mean I’m encouraging pragmatism–certainly better to vote for one of them in the earlier stages than Romney et al.  However, at this point, unless someone else jumps in, I think it’s between Romney and Cain.  And it seems that the only electable one is probably Romney.  But at least Romney is much, much better than Obama, so I guess if need be we could eventually hold our noses and vote for him.  ;)

    I may be dreaming, but I still hope Huckabee has a change of heart.  As for your coveted personal endorsement, are you encouraging those who read this Web site to covet?????  ;)  LOL.   

  • Greg Smith

    I am with you about Newt.  A few months ago I was wishing that he would just go away.  Too much baggage.  Not electable.  But he is clearly the best candidate in the field when it comes to understanding the issues that face this country.  If I could appoint the next president out of the current field of candidates, it would be Newt.  But I am afraid I will wind up holding my nose and voting for Romney next November.

  • http://kansasbob.com Kansas Bob

    Apart from Perry I really do not see anyone on your list with executive leadership experience. Guess that is the problem when the focus is on ideology vs qualifications. It is what got us in trouble 4 years ago when we nominated a senator instead of a governor and got a senator elected.

    • http://caffeinatedthoughts.com Shane Vander Hart

      Does executive experience really count when he ran his state into the ground?

      Not exactly the executive experience I’m looking for.  Ordinarily I’d be with you.

      • http://kansasbob.com Kansas Bob

        In what ways did he run his state into the ground?

      • http://caffeinatedthoughts.com Shane Vander Hart

        Look at what RomneyCare has cost his state.

      • http://kansasbob.com Kansas Bob

        Romney did turn MA around from an inherited budget deficit even though he had to work with a very liberal legislature. He did show his leadership chops in leading the Salt Lake Olympics. He also has a lot of experience making hard decisions in the corporate world.

        And what about Huntsman’s leadership experience? He was a pretty good leader for Utah. Apart from ideology why do you oppose him?

        I guess my point is that ideology should just be one factor in the nomination not the whole thing. When I was hiring for project management positions I made sure that the candidate had a good technical background but I was equally interested in their leadership experience because good technicians do not always make good leaders.

        The qualifications you list above do not include leadership ones. Maybe you can give me some reason why you feel that the legislators on your list would make good chief executives? What has Gingrich, Bachmann and Santorum done to give you confidence that they possess the executive qualities and abilities needed to lead?

      • Argon

        Correct. For example, Gingrich was a partisan bomb-thrower who got thoroughly pwnd by Clinton and ultimately resigned. His management of his own election campaign lead to mass defection of staff. Three marriages?

    • Argon

      Hi Bob. I see your point but remember that Bush Jr. had ‘executive leadership experience’ (governor & some not so clear business experience). What we got was ideology. Clinton also had leadership experience, as did  Reagan & Carter (all governors), Bush Sr. (Oil business, Head of CIA, former VP), Johnson (head of Senate for several years). Eisenhower (Supreme Commander D-Day). 

      Kennedy was a Senator. Nixon a Senator and VP under Eisenhower. Truman (Senator), FDR (Senator).

      I think it’s a mixed bag. ‘Executive’ experience can be helpful but experience in government and government systems seems to definitely be a plus. There is no data from recent experience with business leaders jumping directly to President and some cases where someone in business went through the Senate or a Governor’s office before making it to President.

      Here’s the current mix (alphabetical order)
      Bachmann – US House
      Cain – business, lobbying
      Gingrich – US Speaker of the House (resigned)
      Huntsman - business, governor, ambassadorships (resigned to campaign)
      Paul – US House
      Perry – governor
      Romney - business, governor
      Santorum – US House then Senate (lost re-election)

      • http://kansasbob.com Kansas Bob

        I don’t think that ideology should trump leadership or leadership trump ideology. Both are factors. All I am saying is that a person running for president should be able to point to a successful track record of leadership. When leadership is not a part of the criteria all we get is ideological gridlock as we have in DC today.

      • Argon

        I agree. Even good leaders can be stymied by those who prefer gridlock and hostage taking to actual governing, if they’re sufficient in number. I think the last Congressional election pushed that figure beyond its breaking point.

  • Argon

    Paradoxically, these people are at the bottom of my short list. Go figure.
    Was religious/worldview self-identification a big part of your decision, Shane? Because in terms of ability to govern there are a fair number in this recent list I wouldn’t place there. I could see consistency as contributing to the bunch except for Perry and Gingrich, whose personal integrities I just don’t see. The latter two will pay full-throated lip-service to ‘the cause’ and wrap themselves in the flag twice-over while standing on a mountain of Bibles, but I don’t buy it.

    YMMV.

    • http://caffeinatedthoughts.com Shane Vander Hart

      Yes worldview was a big part of my decision, not theology, there’s much I’d disagree with on them there.  But a belief in natural law, sanctity of life, and less government are things, for example, that we have in common.

      Romney ran his state into the ground, how does that show an ability to govern?

      • Argon

        I’m absolutely not a Romney fan. While I’ll give him some slack because he was a Republican governor in a state where Democrats control the rest, the results while he was in office were lackluster. In particular, toward the end of his last year, it become clear he was trying to brush up on his GOP street-cred to run for the Presidency. What credit I’ll give him (and one which you won’t like) is health coverage in MA where only ~5% of the people remains uninsured. In contrast, Texas leads from the opposite end, with about 27% Over 1/4 of the population!!!!). Does that coverage cost MA? Yes. But it’s better than doing nothing or relying on emergency rooms to provide care.

        That said, he’s one of the few electable people running in the GOP field right now. Why? He’s the most photogenic and the biggest cipher. Cain and Perry are distantly behind. Huntsman might actually do better than Romney in the general election it but he’ll never make it through the primaries.

  • Jeremy Geerdes

    I have a hard time with Bachmann and Gingrich. Bachmann because, while she is quick to bash the president, her numerous and varied gaffes compel me to question her depth of understanding on issues. Is she merely trumpeting things that the polls tell her are important, or is she really wrestling with the very difficult issues that our nation has to deal with? And Gingrich because, while he is certainly stellar on foreign, fiscal, and defense policies, he has given considerable reason for concern on social issues. I find myself wondering if he is merely giving lip service to these issues to garner the support of the Christian right and doubting that such support will have any material effect on a Gingrich administration.

    As for Perry, I really don’t have a problem with his in-state tuition for the children of illegal immigrants unless the child him/herself is an illegal immigrant. If the child was born in the US, he/she is a citizen of the US. This has been a foundational principle of American society since its very inception, and I think that denying US citizens in-state tuition because their parents are illegal immigrants would be a prime example of punishing children for the crimes of the parents, which would violate not only the Constitution but also several Scriptural principles. I do, however, have other problems with Perry. Not the least of these is the fact that, on multiple occasions, I have felt that he was doing things specifically to garner – even manipulate – the vote of evangelicals, in particular.

    So I am left with Santorum. To be honest, I have not been particularly disappointed with anything that he has said or done. He seems solid on social issues, reasonably so on everything else. To be honest, his low-key presentation is actually one of the most attractive things about him: he doesn’t seem to pander to anyone. I regret that some people I know won’t support him because he’s Catholic. I regret even more that the nature of politics today makes it virtually impossible for people like him (i.e., people who won’t pander and make absurd promises to everyone and everything) to be elected. I also wonder if he will actually DO something about the social issues he seems so strong on right now. There has been an historical disconnect between socially conservative candidates and socially conservative officials.

    So as it stands right now, I am leaning toward Santorum. But I am absolutely not committed. At any rate, I refuse to choose a candidate simply on the basis of a couple of talking points. I am looking for a candidate who has clear conviction and a verifiable record on social issues, solid understanding and reasonable ideas for key issues, and is yet humble enough to admit that they might not know everything and is therefore willing to collaborate with people from both sides of the aisle. I also don’t want politicians who spout about today’s headlines nearly as much as they talk about the issues that we are going to face in the next five or ten years (e.g., Social Security, defense, etc.), even if that costs them sound bytes in the short term.

    In short, I’m looking for a candidate who will be committed to Deuteronomy 16:18-20, and not Pundits 1:1.

    • http://caffeinatedthoughts.com Shane Vander Hart

      Your last paragraph, totally with you in how you evaluating candidates. I’d submit that Bachmann hasn’t made as many gaffes as you imply. I can think of just three. I mentioned two, the other was was her promise to lower gas prices to $2/gallon.

  • Anonymous

    Shane,

    Isn’t it true that in the Iowa Caucus they only hand out blank pieces of paper for people to write their desired 
    candidate on?  A possible Presidential candidate doesn’t have to formally file right?

    We shall see if Steve Bannon’s revelation in December will be noticed by Iowa voters.

    Palin/West

    • http://caffeinatedthoughts.com Shane Vander Hart

      Yes that’s true… what revelation?

      Didn’t realize Steve Bannon is a prophet :).

  • http://kansasbob.com Kansas Bob

    Short list seems to be a bit out of sync with the latest Des Moines Register poll. Iowans not resonating with you these days Shane?

  • David j Shedlock

    “2. His campaign organization.  He didn’t have a table at the Iowa Faith & Freedom Coalition Presidential Forum.  He doesn’t have much (if any) campaign apparatus here in Iowa.  How will he turn out the vote?”

    What would this have anything to do with whether you would vote for him?  Are you only going to vote for somebody that can “win” in the caucuses?