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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