My great-aunt Ann was a diehard Democrat who believed that in the realm of politics FDR was the Creator and JFK the Messiah. I don't think she lived to see the JFK myth put pretty thoroughly to rest (as much as it can ever be--the true believers seem to be pretty committed still). But she was somewhat disillusioned with their successors. She spent her last years in a nursing home, and I think it was on one of my visits there during the 1988 Democratic primaries that she asked me sourly "And how are all the lovely candidates doing?"
I watched most of the Republican "debate" tonight. I'm slightly, but only slightly, embarrassed to say that I had not watched any of the thousand or so others, and had never seen any of these men except Gingrich speak on TV. I'm not a gambler, but I'm thinking of making a large bet that Obama will win the election this fall, so that when it happens I'll have a consolation prize. I hope I'm wrong, because I think any of them would be preferable to a second Obama term. But I really have a hard time believing that any of them can beat him, vulnerable though he is.
If I knew nothing whatever about them except what I saw tonight, I'd be for Ginrich. He was certainly the most articulate, and the one who struck me as most likely to have the combination of vision and realism to move the government in a different direction without steering it onto the rocks. But of course I do know a number of other things about him, and he may be in fact the one most likely to steer it onto the rocks. And as for his notorious private life...well, if one believed he were truly repentant and humble...but that is one point on which his advocacy is unpersuasive.
Ron Paul has often been likened to a crazy uncle, and now I see why. He is absolutely right about some things, and probably his ideas do hew closer to the Founders' vision than anyone else's. But I can't imagine him being elected.
Rick Santorum was good on almost everything that was discussed tonight (war was hardly mentioned, unless it was in the first 20 minutes or so which I missed). And he could probably be persuasive to a lot of people. But he will seem lightweight compared to Obama--seem--it will not be fair, because Obama is a lightweight, but he's the kind of lightweight who appeals to opinion-makers. And his views on social issues are already being portrayed as deranged and dangerous; sadly, a pretty large proportion of the American people now view his beliefs, most of which would have seemed unobjectionable fifty years ago, as extremist.
And Romney: his good or bad qualities are almost irrelevant, because the Democrats are going to have a great time making him the symbol of everything that has gone wrong with the economy for the past several years, never mind the fact that Obama's government is full of people who were much closer to that action. It was miserable to watch him squirm when asked if and when he would reveal his tax returns.
Like I said, I hope I'm wrong. The bloom is certainly off the Obama rose, so maybe there will be more of an opening than I think. But that's how it looks to me now.