The race so far for the 2012 Republican presidential nomination has been feisty, entertaining, relentless, unbelievably negative and, we dare say, enlightening.
Yes, the process is far from perfect. Money matters too much. Atypical states carry too much weight. Negative advertising plays too big a part. Major media coverage gets too caught up in the horse race. Qualified candidates get bounced too early for reasons having little to do with their qualifications.
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Yet, despite all those flaws, the process has provided an amazingly accurate view of those who are running. It's possible to miss a candidate's position on a particular issue. but any voter who's been paying attention has a pretty good idea of who each candidate is.
This much is clear:
• Rep. Ron Paul of Texas is one of the most straightforward and unconventional candidates to ever run for national office. His ideology is more libertarian than conservative. But while his ornery scrappiness is somewhat endearing, it's hard to imagine how, as president, his style and his views could build a consensus that would get anything done.
• Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich of Georgia may possess the most brilliant mind and the most indefatigable energy in the field. Problem is, he'd be the first person to tell you that. It's such a tragic waste of talent that Gingrich's great gifts are sullied so much by an abrasive and self-indulgent personality.
• Former Sen. Rick Santorum of Pennsylvania is, without question, the most socially conservative candidate in the race. As much as we'd like to like Santorum (he attended high school in Mundelein, after all), as genuine as he is in his beliefs, we've got a problem with that. Santorum would turn back the clock to a time that never existed. It's not just that his social views would make him a divisive leader and a disaster in the White House. They make him simply unelectable to begin with.
• Former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney is not a perfect candidate. Who, in the end, really is? But objective logic plainly indicates he is the only candidate in the Republican field who could win in November.
The choice in the Republican primary on March 20 is that simple. Vote for Romney or vote for Barack Obama, That's the hard truth before GOP voters: The nomination of Paul or Gingrich or Santorum would, with certainty, amount to Obama's re-election.
Meanwhile, Romney understands, in ways his opponents don't seem quite to grasp, that this election is about the economy, and he's got the experience and aptitude to help rebuild it.
More than that, his experience in Massachusetts the most Democratic state in the union shows he has the ability to work across party lines to solve problems.
He may not be the most charismatic candidate in the field, but he is the strongest collaborator and an able leader.
Romney has our endorsement in the GOP primary.