Here are my quick thoughts as we come down to the wire in the Iowa caucuses for the GOP presidential nomination:
1. It shouldn't matter as much as it does, and it probably won't matter that much this time. Why exactly is it that we permit a small subset of Iowans to play a large role in the selection of our Presidential candidates? The system has never made sense to me beyond the simplest of facts that you have to have some system for winnowing the candidates down to a manageable number. This time I think it won't matter that much. If Romney wins, the campaign is close to being over, because he's going to win in New Hampshire a week later, and his momentum will then be unstoppable. If Romney loses, the campaign is still close to being over, for the same reason.
2. Romney winning is not the end of the world. Notice something? That's the sound of the major gaffes Romney has made. There aren't any. That's pretty telling to me... as the frontrunner throughout, Romney has had a disciplined campaign, hasn't made big mistakes, hasn't had big turmoil on his staff, has gotten his name on the ballots where he needed it (Gingrich and Perry screwing up getting on the Virginia primary ballot should almost be a disqualifier... if they can't do that, how will they run the White House?), has raised a ton of money, etc. Is he the perfect candidate? No... I hate the fact that Romneycare takes away a big issue for 2012 on Obamacare. But he has many pluses, including a spectacularly successful career in the private sector and an unblemished personal life (sorry Newt!). Most important of all, he can beat Obama, which would mean a Republican in the White House with the likelihood of a Republican Senate and House, which means he would sign Republican-sponsored legislation. And he would nominate conservative judges.
Obama must be defeated; otherwise we are really really screwed. We can't let the quest for the perfect be the enemy of the good enough. Let's keep our eyes on the prize.
3. The Republican field is not as bad as people think. People act as if the Republican field is terrible, simply because they idealize Ronald Reagan and think that none of these fellows is Ronald Reagan. They forget that Reagan wasn't Reagan in 1980 yet either... he was an ex-Governor, B-movie actor. The Republicans this time around whom I view as legitimate candidates include a very successful Governor of a huge state, Texas (Perry), a very successful former Governor of the most conservative state, Utah (Huntsman), a successful former Republican Governor of a blue state, Massachusetts, who also has very significant private sector experience (Romney), and a very conservative (and very pro-Life) former Senator of a blue state, Pennsylvania (Santorum). None of them have any reported blemishes on their personal lives. The field also includes candidates who, while flawed and unelectable (in my judgment) for various reasons, serve the salutary purpose of pulling the party further to the right on important policy matters -- I'd call them the "idea" candidates, Gingrich, Paul and Bachmann. That's not too shabby. (I said the same thing six months ago here.)
Compare the Democrats in 2008... a non-entity first-term Senator (Obama) defeats the ex-wife of a President (Clinton), with also-rans of Chris Dodd (quit the Senate in disgrace over his cozy financial relationship with Countrywide), John Edwards (indicted for funnelling campaign money to his mistress), Bill Richardson (under investigation for the same crime), and Joe Biden (enough said).
In short, I could live with a Romney-Santorum ticket (or Romney-Rubio or Romney-Ryan). And I think that's what's going to happen.