Newt's surprising ascendancy is a function both of the disappointing field and his stellar debate performances, the latter being especially refreshing in view of Perry's debate-related implosion. But concerns remain, not just about his so-called personal baggage but also about positions he's taken and statements he's made in the past, from global warming to health care. Romney is a man of mostly even temperament and few gaffes, and for a few years he has been saying mostly the "right" things. But his reputation as a flip-flopper, doubt about his true positions on social issues, and his stubborn refusal to denounce Romneycare inspire anxiety and distrust about whether in the end he would govern as a conservative.
Those of us who remain undecided are not making the perfect the enemy of the good. But we have to be sure that we nominate a candidate who not only could defeat Obama but also would take the dramatic steps necessary to reverse his agenda. Anything less might not be enough to rescue the republic from financial ruin.
The way I see the current field, Rick Santorum and Bachmann could be trusted to govern as consistent, bold conservatives with the courage, convictions and competence to roll back Obama's assault. But at this point, neither seems to be able to garner enough support to make it above the second tier. Whether they would be electable against Obama is moot if they can't generate more support from their own party.
Cain is also a reliable conservative with an impressive record as a competent and innovative businessman with strong leadership skills. But many remain concerned about his depth of knowledge on the issues, as well as yet more women-related allegations. Perry seems to be mostly conservative, with exceptions, and has a record as an effective executive in Texas. But many now fear that his debate performances either are indicative of greater intellectual weaknesses or would severely impair his electability against Obama.
So we have a few fine candidates who are getting no traction, a few who are strong conservatives with perceived substantive weaknesses, and a few who are overflowing with competency and ideas but who generate grave doubts as to whether they would govern as conservatively as they've campaigned. Despite the rigorous vetting, there is more to come, but no matter how many further weaknesses they expose, I will enthusiastically support the last GOP man or woman standing.