Technically, the Republicans still have four candidates left in the race. Ron Paul is a nutbag who remains in the race mainly because he's got a lot of money to spend courtesy of the internet, but is so right wing that he is left wing on the Iraq war-- a worthy successor to Pat Buchanan but thank God the man will never become President. Mike Huckabee has proven that the vaunted 'Christian Right' has its limitations. He has been fading since Iowa, and remains in the race now (though he won't admit it) as a favor to John McCain (the two of them have become closer on the campaign trail than two candidates running against each other usually become) since he cuts into a base of support that Mitt Romney needs if he is to catch McCain.
However, I will limit this discussion to the top two (as I said in the last post).
Mitt Romney is likely not going to win. And well he deserves to lose. Romney used to be pro-choice, in favor of embryonic stem cell research and gay rights. That is why he got elected Governor as a Republican in one of the two or three most liberal states in the union. But then he decided to run for President and did the crassly political, changing his positions to suit the conservative base of the GOP. Many have remained openly suspicious of him, and rightfully so. I suspect that if the alternative were someone other than John McCain, Mitt wouldn't even have the support he has now. He also has (as a man with hundreds of millions of dollars) done the same thing as Steve Forbes did-- spent enormous amounts of his own money on negative advertising. And like Forbes, he's mostly failed. He lost Iowa and New Hampshire, early states he was supposed to win, and when Rudy Giuiani collapsed in Florida Romney still wasn't able to win despite saturating the air waves with more negative ads. I've watched Romney in the debates and he comes across as every bit as unpleasant in person as his advertising apparently has to early primary voters. I might add that he created 'universal' health insurance coverage in Massachusetts by getting the legislature to pass a law requiring that everyone buy coverage. The problem is that many people who didn't have it before can't afford the premiums and apparently Romney never considered that some people might be too poor to afford the premiums, either because they don't earn enough or because they have health conditions that make it hard to even find anyone who will sell them a policy at any price. Romney must think that everyone else has a quarter of a billion dollars in the bank just like he does (though after this campaign it is likely to be substantially less than that.)
However, Romney will most likely lose to John McCain. McCain has a reputation as a 'maverick' and the distrust of some high profile conservatives because he has disagreed with them on issues like immigration (on which he has the same position as President Bush) and torture (where he has the same position as the Geneva conventions, in contrast to the Bush administration which apparently has the same position as Saddam Hussein.) But being against torture isn't exactly the hallmark of a liberal, it's the hallmark of anyone with any kind of decency at all. Just think that before the Bush administration we all knew, and knew because it was true, that the United States did not engage in such practices. So being against torture is like not being a murderer. Not supporting torture doesn't inherently make you 'good,' because anyone in any civilized nation should take it for granted that their government adheres (as a signatory) to the Geneva Conventions anyway, it's just that those who can't even reach that bar are distinctly 'bad.' The fact that McCain has been attacked for not being willing to, for example, support the waterboarding of prisoners says more about the moral bankruptcy of those who have followed George W. Bush, Dick Cheney and Alberto Gonzalez down this medieval blind alley than it says about John McCain. McCain has also been on the sh*t list of conservatives since McCain-Feingold, a law which limits the ability of organizations to run ads targetting candidates by name within a short time before an election. Not that it has been much of a restriction, since they can just start a '527' instead, so that for example McCain-Feingold did not prevent the 'swift-boat' ads, nor has it prevented Romney's monetary bludgeon. Further, McCain, whose election to Congress in 1982 was largely financed by his in-laws' mafia money, and who was one of the 'Keating Five,' is hardly a paragon of virtue when it comes to keeping money out of politics.
To dispel a great myth, let me also say that John McCain is no liberal, nor is he a moderate. He is very conservative, on many, many issues. His voting record has been pretty consistently to the right throughout his whole tenure in Congress.
He is an economic conservative. McCain runs a website where he likes to take aim at what he calls 'pork,' (despite the fact that a lot of Federal spending is an investment in the basic infrastructure of various areas, and that is according to the intent of the founding fathers who created a house of 'REPRESENTATIVES,' tasked with representing the needs of their districts and consituencies and writing it into legislation.) McCain has also made it clear on his own Presidential campaign website (under 'issues,' hit 'read more' under 'health care' and scroll almost to the bottom-- that last link is here) that he wants to "eliminate the bias towards" employer paid health insurance and replace it with a $2,500 tax credit($5,000 for families). Never mind that the average family policy last year cost over $12,000 and that many people have health risks such that they could only qualify for affordable insurance if they are part of an employee risk pool. McCain is against extending unemployment benefits or other programs designed to help people out even during a recession, and has made it abundantly clear that he favors extending the Bush tax cuts (even though he voted against them in 2001.) In 2005 McCain praised President Bush's failed attempt to privatize Social Security.
John McCain is also a social conservative. He has been against gay rights and for banning abortion. He has a 100% anti-abortion voting record both in Congress and in the Senate, and the only time he ever said anything that could be construed as pro-choice was during the 2000 campaign when he was asked before the New Hampshire primary what he would do if his own daughter became pregnant and wanted an abortion and he implied that he would allow it. So John McCain is consistent in that he only favors abortion for his family, but he is against allowing it for women he is not related to. The other day when discussing Supreme Court nominees, McCain said he would nominate justices 'like John Roberts.' Yikes. Roberts has been part of the four staunch conservatives on the court. Some conservative commentators have jumped on McCain because he disparaged Justice Alito for 'wearing his conservatism on his sleeve.' That doesn't matter. Roberts may keep his tucked away in his vest pocket, but the result is the same. With liberal Justice Stevens having regular heart problems, and the SCOTUS balanced right now only on Justice Kennedy's consistent inconsistency, we can't afford for John McCain to appoint another quiet, consistent conservative like John Roberts to the Supreme Court any more than we could afford a sleeve-wearing conservative.
John McCain is also a neo-con. We all know by now that he is invested to the hilt in the Iraq war, and supports the construction of permanent bases in Iraq and recently vowed to stay there for 'a hundred years.' Of course in the Senate, McCain has voted consistently for unlimited and unconditional funding for Iraq (for some reason 'fiscal conservatives' who scowl at a few hundred thousand in the budget for a bridge in America don't bat an eyelash over hundreds of billions every few months to pour down the drain in Iraq.)
But he is a neo-con in more than just supporting the Iraq war. In 1983, a group of Reagan administration officials, embarrassed by former President Jimmy Carter's work in certifying elections in foreign countries as fair (or certifying some as unfair) founded the International Republican Institute, a private organization that is not part of the government. The purpose of this organization is officially to certify elections (as an alternative to the U.N. and other indepdendent monitoring agencies) but it is a sometimes shadowy organization that has been involved with local politics, what could be considered 'nation building' and operating parallel to the offical state department diplomacy throughout the world. During the Bush administration, the IRI has more than once been a key component to conducting the administrations' parallel diplomacy in situations where matters like American law and international law might be 'constraining.' Anyway, a look at the board of directors of the IRI is quite revealing:
Its chairman is none other than John McCain.
Others on the board of the IRI include a virtual who's who of the neo-cons present and past: Paul Bremer (the first U.S. envoy to Iraq), Frank Fahrenkopf (former chairman of the Republican Party), Scowcroft and Eagleburger (the 'Bobsey twins' of Bush I foreign policy, who went to Beijing right after the Tianenmen Square massacre to assure the Chinese that any official criticism was for domestic consumption only), and three other present or former members of Congress (all Republicans.) Former Reagan U.N. Ambassador Jeanne Kirkpatrick was a member until she passed away last year. The rest of the membership reads like a laundry list of neo-con priorities, a mixture of movers and shakers of industry (such as the Director of Lockheed Martin Missile Defense Programs), former CIA and state department midlevel managers and others who can be relied on (not a Democrat among them.) Well, you know what they say, "birds of a feather." Well, this is the company that John McCain is keeping these days. Has been since 2003. And Patriot I and Patriot II and all the other domestic spying bills? Yep, McCain supported those too.
So it's really not so surprising that McCain was caught in the famous photo of the Bush hug at the 2004 GOP convention.
On virtually everything that matters, if you want another four years of the Bush administration, then you'll vote for John McCain.