Debra J. Saunders
Mitt Romney may be the best candidate in the 2012 GOP primary, but that's not saying much. It's like being the best mayor of Oakland, Calif.

Rep. Michele Bachmann of Minnesota may not be ready for the Oval Office, but she's been a feisty challenger not afraid to take on Romney, Newt Gingrich and Rick Perry. She will emerge from the primary with more authority than she had when she entered the race.

Radio talk show host Herman Cain won points with his unique personal success story in the corporate world, no small feat for a black man who grew up in the Jim Crow South. It is sad that Cain's campaign started to melt down after a barrage of sexual harassment allegations, because other factors should have sunk his candidacy. Cain lacked the political experience to run for the highest office in the land. GOP fans might have liked his plain talk, but they were fooling themselves if they thought a political rookie could win in November.

For a while, it looked as if Perry, with his 11 years of experience as Texas governor, could win the nod. Then Perry got into the debates, and he didn't catch on. So he started flailing -- hitting gays in the military one day, a full-time Congress the next -- in a manner that appeared gratuitous and scattershot.

Then there's Perry's amateur-hour failure to muster the 10,000 signatures needed to qualify for the Virginia ballot on Super Tuesday.

Former House Speaker Gingrich also failed to qualify for the Virginia ballot -- and he lives in Virginia. Worse, his campaign director quickly announced that he and Gingrich agreed that the fiasco was analogous to Pearl Harbor -- a sneak attack that left 2,403 dead. Later, Gingrich explained to the media that his campaign had hired a fraudster who had submitted 1,500 "false signatures." This is not the crack team you want running the White House.

GOP primary voters might have told pollsters that they liked Gingrich because he was at the top of his game during debates. But Republicans didn't like the Gingrich package. They didn't like that Freddie Mac, the mortgage giant with a role in the nation's housing meltdown, paid Newt Inc. about $1.6 million. They had begun to remember how much work it became for House Republicans to carry the ethically challenged Speaker Gingrich through his verbal gaffes and ethics probes.

Rep. Ron Paul of Texas could win Iowa, but he cannot win the GOP primary. Republican voters understand that -- however much they may want to downsize the federal government -- a candidate who wants to eliminate the Internal Revenue Service, capital gains taxes and the Transportation Security Administration is not going to beat President Barack Obama.

Debra J. Saunders

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