Some folks have asked for an examination of the Republican field, and the cow-pats within it.  Like the primaries themselves, this post should be considered political entertainment.  Facts about positions are mostly taken from Wikipedia; impressionistic descriptions are based on a few months of reading other pundits.

We have, of course, just had the Iowa caucuses, and I’ve put the candidates in the same order the Iowans did.  (However, as the returns trickle in, Romney and Santorum keep switching places.  As I press ‘save’, Santorum is four votes ahead.)

Edit: Romney flip-flopped to win by 8 votes, and Bachmann has left the race.

Unless noted below, assume that all the candidates support these base positions:

  • Universal health insurance (Obamacare) should be repealed.  We need to return to having millions of uninsured, less coverage for college students, and insurance plans denying coverage based on pre-existing conditions.
  • The Bush tax cuts must be kept– ballooning the deficit– and taxes can never be raised.  A budget plan that raised $1 for every $10 it saved would be unacceptable.
  • In a country where the percent of national income that goes to the top 1% has been rising for decades and the middle class is stagnating, the key imperative is to change the tax code to give more money to the rich.   Not a one of these candidates will defy Grover Norquist and lift a finger to help the 99%.
  • Though unemployment is still close to 9% and though British and Euroland austerity programs are failing, we must depress the economy by drastically cutting government.  Even monetary policy is now a liberal plot.  The Ryan plan or something worse should be enacted so we are not tyrannized by having health care and retirement benefits.
  • A constitutional amendment should define marriage as heterosexual.  (Demurrals: only Cain and Paul.)  The Don’t Ask Don’t Tell policy should be reinstated, tossing out gay and lesbian servicemembers.
  • We should have stayed in Iraq against the wishes of the Iraqi government, and make it clear we’ll do the same in Afghanistan.
  • Obama has somehow not sufficiently bowed down to Benjamin Netanyahu; the only policy we need in the Middle East is unquestioning support of the Likud, and either Israel or the US should start a new war with Iran.
  • Global warming simply isn’t occuring and certainly isn’t caused by human activity.  It’s all a liberal plot.
  • Roe vs Wade should be overturned somehow, and abortion made illegal.
  • There should be no amnesty for illegal immigrants.

Mitt Romney

Qualifications: Governor of Massachusetts, 2003 to 2007.
Iowa percentage: 25%

The front-runner who can’t seem to inch past that 25% ceiling.  Massachusetts is a liberal state, and he governed as a moderate.  Most damningly, he created a universal health insurance plan for the state which was the model for Obamacare– indeed, its designers went to work for Obama.  That’s a huge minus for the base, and the year has been an exercise in the party trying out one Not Romney after another without really taking to any of them.  He’s abandoned moderate positions (e.g. pro-choice) and gone ferociously after Obama as if he were already the nominee; this hasn’t kept the base from distrusting him.  Some Evangelicals don’t like that he’s a Mormon.

Ran Bain Capital, a venture capital firm, from 1983 to 1999, known for restructurings that laid off employees and massively compensating CEOs.

Used to accept anthropogenic global warming, but now downplays this… in any case, actually doing anything about it is wrong.

Wants to repeal Dodd-Frank; wants to increase the size of the military; opposes New START treaty.

Rick Santorum

Qualifications: Lost his Pennsylvania Senate seat in 2006 by the largest margin (18 points) ever seen for an R-PA senator.
Iowa percentage: 25%

Santorum has been going for the Christianist vote, but he didn’t get a surge till late December… just in time for Iowa.  He’s been very big against homosexuality, and supports laws against “sodomy”, leading to Dan Savage’s campaign to redefine his name as the frothy mixture of lube and shit sometimes produced by anal sex.  This gives added impact to headlines like “Santorum rising in the polls”.

If there’s a strong libertarian undercurrent in the GOP, Santorum never got the memo.  He’s worth quoting in full on this:

“This whole idea of personal autonomy, well I don’t think most conservatives hold that point of view. Some do. They have this idea that people should be left alone, be able to do whatever they want to do, government should keep our taxes down and keep our regulations low, that we shouldn’t get involved in the bedroom, we shouldn’t get involved in cultural issues. You know, people should do whatever they want. Well, that is not how traditional conservatives view the world and I think most conservatives understand that individuals can’t go it alone. That there is no such society that I am aware of, where we’ve had radical individualism and that it succeeds as a culture.”

Tried to get the sneaky back door of creationism, “intelligent design”, taught in schools.  Thinks states should be able to outlaw contraception.

Believes illegals shouldn’t get any government benefits and should be deported if caught in any crime.

It’s hard to picture him doing great in New Hampshire, so his surge too may fail.  But the party is running out of Not Romneys, and he was really the last one that could energize the base.

Ron Paul

Qualifications: Texas House member since 1997
Iowa percentage: 21%

Paul is everyone’s favorite GOP dissident, and has an amazing ability to get people to agree fervently with him on some issues while vigorously ignoring everything else he says.

It’s certainly refreshing to hear a Republican who’s against all foreign interventions, suggests cutting aid to Israel, wants to stop the embargo on Cuba, opposes the national security state, and opposes a war on Iran.  And he’s pretty consistent in wanting (and voting for) as small a federal government as possible.

But he’s just as likely to support crank positions.  He wants to withdraw from the UN and the WTO; he was against the Osama raid; he questions birthright citizenship; he wants to abolish the IRS and the Fed; he wants a gold/silver standard and thinks there’s something horrific about fractional reserve banking.

Then there’s those racist newsletters.  Basically, he published a newsletter filled with a santorum of racist bilge.  We are apparently supposed to believe that he didn’t write it, didn’t read it, and didn’t bother to check what was going out under his name (and making him money).  You just don’t think he’s a racist?  Fine, then he’s a completely irresponsible manager.

He’d like to have no income tax at all, but he’d allow a 10% flat tax.  He’s against any form of government health care and would like to end the direct election of senators.  But hey, he thinks the war on drugs is a failure.  He thinks global warming exists but isn’t a problem.

His libertarianism hasn’t prevented him from introducing a flag desecration amendment, believing that Texas could pass laws against sodomy, and introducing bills defining life as beginning at conception and exempting all laws relating to religion from court review.

Newt Gingrich

Qualifications: Speaker of the House 1995-99– thrown out by his own party.
Iowa percentage: 13%

Known for his three marriages, his impeaching Clinton while carrying on his own affair, and getting slapped by the House for ethics violations, Gingrich seemed like a comedy candidate all year, till a brief surge after Cain imploded.  He’s a firebrand, and Republican audiences like his strong rhetoric.  But he’s also unusually apt to meltdowns of his own making.

He has the unusual disqualification of knowing something about practical governing… which means he’s made compromises with liberals his enemies can exploit.  He once appeared on a TV ad for Al Gore on climate change, but he downplays that now (though he still thinks reducing carbon emissions is a good idea)  He once praised Romneycare and the individual mandate, but now wants to repoeal Obamacare.  He called Ryan’s budget “right-wing social engineering” but later explained that he really likes it.

He wants to privatize Social Security and Medicare; he’s under the impression that drilling in Alaska will reduce gas prices; and he hopes to enable child labor.  He hopes to abolish courts that defy Congress; he opposed the New York mosque, and loves the border fence.  Lately he called the Palestinians an “invented people”.

He’s famously worried that his grandchildren would live in “a secular atheist country, potentially one dominated by radical Islamists”.  Despite such nonsense, he’s what passes for an intellectual in the current GOP.

Rick Perry

Qualifications: Governor of Texas since 2000
Iowa percentage: 10%

Perry had a big surge around August… until people actually heard him speak.  He was a dud.  The kicker was when he failed to remember his own list of the three Cabinet departments he would cut.

It was kind of a surprise, because Perry is pretty much the 2012 version of Dubya Bush.  He knows how to talk to the base, yet he has experience as a governor and thus has some almost liberal bits of policy, such as extending benefits to illegals, and opposing the border fence.

He likes to tout his jobs record in Texas– though that largely consisted of watching as people moved from other states, a plan that can’t exactly be scaled up to the US.  He reduced Medicaid in Texas,  which ranks 49th in affordability of health insurance and 50th in coverage of the population.

He’d like to take a heavy pen to the Constitution; he’s criticized amendments allowing federal income tax and the direction election of senators; he wants amendments banning same-sex marriage and mandating a balanced budget.  He wants Congress to be able to overrule the Supreme Court.  (Republicans hate the Court even though they control it.)  He calls Social Security a “Ponzi scheme” and has proposed a tax system where you do your taxes twice, the second set being a 20% flat tax, and take the lower figure.

He believes in teaching creationism but thinks (whew!) this should be decided at hte local level.

He notoriously called the Fed “almost treasonous” for “printing money”, presumably referring to the quantitative easing it was undertaking to keep us out of a recession.  It is now treason in Republican eyes if we are not experiencing the depression God intended for us.

Michele Bachmann

Qualifcations: Minnesota House member, elected 2006.
Iowa percentage: 5%

Bachmann has been described as a smarter Sarah Palin.  She rode the Tea Party train to Congress and has consistently opposed responsible management of the economy.  She thought the banks should fail and the government should default on its debts.

She’s another Christianist candidate, this time of the Evangelical flavor.  She’d like to require the teaching of creationism, wants a federal amendment barring same-sex marriage, and has rustled up anti-Muslim sentiment.  Her husband runs a counseling service which sometimes attempts to pray the gay out of clients.

She wants to end Medicare and Social Security, opposes Dodd-Frank as well as Obamacare, and attacked Perry for having teenage girls in Texas vaccinated for HPV.

She was doing well in the polls over the summer, but has been eclipsed by the sideshow of successive surges, and never got the limelight back.  I can’t really tell you why Santorum ending up taking the Christianist vote instead.  Maybe it’s sexism: the GOP likes its female cranks but just couldn’t see one as its nominee.

Jon Huntsman

Qualifcations: Governor of Utah 2005-09; Obama’s ambassador to China.
Iowa percentage: 1%

Generally the non-Republicans’ favorite in the race, because he’s that now rare beast, the moderate Republican.  A guy who worked for Obama can’t really peddle the Obama-is-the-Beast cornflakes.  But he turns out to be a zero as a speaker and just hasn’t electrified anyone.  His 1% showing may be misleading as he didn’t really contest Iowa, but at this point he would have to physically transform into Ronald Reagan to get his own surge.

He actually retains a few moderate positions: he supports civil unions (but not same-sex marriage) and accepts global warming.  On the other hand he’s taken the tax cuts koolaid and supports the Ryan budget.

Herman Cain

Qualifications: CEO of Godfather’s Pizza for ten years (where he closed 200 restaurants and eliminated thousands of jobs).

Cain was a footnote for most of the year, till he got his moment of surge in September.  He’s reliably social conservative, he’s black, and he had a reputation for kind of seeming like a nice guy.  Then he crashed and burned amid accusations of sexual harrassment and adultery.

Before that, he was most famous for his 9-9-9 plan.  This was a corporate tax, a sales tax, and an income tax, all flat as sin at 9%; as some of these are new taxes and affect the same activities, it’s a startling scheme for making the poor pay more and the rich less.

His knowledge of foreign affairs tested the Republican voter’s preference for homey doofuses: “When they ask me who’s the president of Ubeki-beki-beki-beki-stan-stan, I’m going to say, You know, I don’t know. Do you know?”  He also warned about the danger of China getting nukes.  (Which it’s had for forty years.)

He opined that Occupy Wall Street is “un-American”: “If you don’t have a job and you’re not rich, blame yourself.”  Again, this is the GOP’s idea of a nice guy.

He sports the usual collection of crazy ideas– he likes the gold standard; he was in favor of defaulting on the government’s debt; he wants to privatize Social Security; he thinks religious freedom doesn’t apply to Muslims.