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If I Had to Pick a Candidate Today…

February 21, 2011

If I had to pick a conservative Republican presidential candidate who could beat Barack Obama next year, whom would I choose?

Former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin has been underestimated at every stage of her political life and may yet surprise us once more. I would like to think so. But as Rush Limbaugh is fond of saying, those whom the leftist media fear most they are determined to destroy, and they have demonized Palin like no one in recent memory.

Former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney has two major strikes against him. He is a Mormon, which automatically kills his chances with many evangelicals, and he is responsible for signing into law Romneycare, the Massachusetts model for Obamacare. That ill-conceived bureaucratic behemoth has caused health care costs in the Bay State to skyrocket.

Former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich, PhD, is a visionary leader with a sense of history. But he is dragging around moral baggage so heavy it resembles steamer trunks. I'd like to like him, but I don't, and I don't think he can win.

Mike Huckabee is a smart, likeable former governor who could take on Obama in a heartbeat if he could get the GOP nomination. However, some conservative groups opposed him in 2008, contending he was too soft on illegal immigration and too prone to approve tax increases during his ten years as chief executive of Arkansas.

Ron Paul, the fiery, GOP libertarian from Texas, may be the favorite among the activists at CPAC, but he has no chance of getting the nomination or winning the presidency. He would be a fine president if he could get there, but come on, who are we kidding?

Jeb Bush is being mentioned, but those who read my column last week know what I think of ever voting for another Bush.

Chris Christie, the new governor of New Jersey, is a fiscal hawk and a social liberal who has said he will not run because he is not ready.

Then there are the second and third tier candidates whose names elicit a blank stare from most voters, followed by the question, "who?" They include former Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty; Gov. Mitch Daniels of Indiana; South Dakota Sen. John Thune; Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour; former New Mexico Gov. Gary Johnson; and businessman and radio talk show host Herman Cain, the former CEO of Godfather's pizza.

A few of these individuals have the potential to be good presidents, but they will not have the opportunity to display that potential as president. Some, like Barbour, speak in boring terms about being a "manager" for America. Excuse me, governor, but America doesn't need a manager. She needs a leader.

The one person I have not heard mentioned is a man who could win the Republican nomination if he ran. He served in the U.S. House of Representatives from 1983 to 2001. When Republicans swept Congress in 1994, this man became chairman of the House Budget Committee. He was the primary architect of the Balanced Budget Act of 1997.

After leaving the House, he went to work as a commentator for Fox News, hosting his own weekend program and serving as a frequent guest host for Bill O'Reilly and Sean Hannity. He is a solid, pro-life, pro-family Christian, and he could destroy Barack Obama in a head-to-head debate and win the presidency, just as he defeated incumbent Gov. Ted Strickland last year in Ohio — the one state that has voted for the victor in all but two presidential elections since 1904.

And that, of course, is why John Kasich will not run for president in 2012. Unlike Obama, who started running five minutes after the voters of Illinois elected him to serve as their U.S. Senator, Kasich is focused on the job voters elected him to do. How refreshing.

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Copyright ©2011 Doug Patton

Doug Patton describes himself as a recovering political speechwriter who agrees with himself more often than not. His weekly columns are syndicated by Cagle Cartoons newspaper syndicate. Readers are encouraged to email him at dpatton@cagle.comand/or to follow him on Twitter at @Doug_Patton.