Giuliani, Edwards bow out
With Rudy Giuliani and John Edwards officially out of the running, there are only two major candidates left in each party. It's a shame the field has narrowed so drastically so soon, but that is the nature of our stupid presidential nomination process. (See below.) In the fallout, John McCain and Mitt Romney got into a heated debate exchange, as Romney questioned whether McCain is a "true conservative." See Washington Post Uh-oh, here we go again for another round of "RINO"-calling...
It is interesting, but perhaps not too significant, that both Giuliani and Edwards are considered to be ideologically on the left side of their respective parties. Giuliani's quick endorsement of John McCain is no doubt an attempt to boost momentum in favor of the moderate candidate who remains anathema to Rush Limbaugh and many others on the right wing of the party. It will be a big task to get those folks (and even more moderate conservatives like me) to swallow their disappointment and rally behind a man who, for all his flaws and errant policy positions is still a devoted, capable, and patriotic leader. At this point, there is no doubt in my mind that John McCain is the only Republican candidate who can draw enough support to defeat either Hillary Clinton or Barack Obama. As Giuliani said, he is uniquely qualified among the remaining candidates, and he deserves full support from the Republican Party.
It is also interesting to relate the endorsements made by leading politicians in Virginia. Senator John Warner and Rep. Tom Davis (see below) back John McCain, House of Delegates Speaker William Howell supports Mike Huckabee, Lt. Gov. Bill Bolling and PWC Board Chairman Corey Stewart support Mitt Romney, and former Senator George Allen supported Fred Thompson. Locally, Delegate Chris Saxman has endorsed John McCain for the past several months, even though Saxman is generally aligned with the opposite (right) ideological side of the Republican Party.
As John McCain surges to the top of my candidate ranking list "by default," I'll have to pay increasing attention to the other serious candidates who remain. The difference between the #2 (Romney) and #3 (Huckabee) is very small. Both men have some very good attributes and policy positions, and some things that give me great pause. I'm glad Ron Paul is still technically in the race, to keep theings interesting if nothing else. Like Ross Perot in 1992, he may be a bit of an oddball, but he speaks blunt truths that other candidates are to squeamish to repeat.
The Virginia primaries
With only five days to go until Super Tuesday, it is entirely possible that one or both races will essentially be sewn up a week from today. It's a shame that the primary system has degenerated into a chaotic free-for-all that punishes prudent-minded candidates, but I see no sign of sentiment in favor of reforming the party nomination system. Like most major problems in America and the world, the root cause lies in misguided government spending that creates false illusions and perverse incentives. I'm talking about the money spent by state governments for primary elections, which should be the exclusive domain of the respective political parties. Much more on that later...