I am, of course, not without opinion on the matter, so I'll spout for a bit. ;-)
Rudy is America's Mayor, of course. One of the louder voices of reason and clearmindedness in the wake of September 11, he's also got a reputation as a fighter, and a guy who's not cowed by the press and its invidiousness toward all Republicans.
Rudy's willingness to actually combat his critics is a bonus for him, and in my opinion the reason he's enjoying the popularity he currently is: many Republicans are very, very (very) tired of the Bush white house's maddeningly passive attitude toward the hits they take from their "loyal opposition," both in Congress and from the press.
Sadly, as a Republican Rudy's an odd duck, and a caustic choice: pro-abortion, pro-gay-marriage, pro-gun-control, two divorces, estranged family members, and that's just the short list. He's attempted to mollify his critics by promising to pursue strict constructionist judicial appointments and to prosecute the Global War on Terror vigorously, and by appealing for privacy in personal matters, but this is a guy I and many GOPers would vote for as a vote against Hillary. Real nose-holding material.
"Maverick." The Straight Talk Express. Campaign Finance "Reform." Sops to illegal immigrants in his home state. Gang of 14. "Torture" legislation that governed nothing of the sort and insulted our soldiers.
All the distinguished service, all the years in the Hanoi Hilton, and all the foreign-policy hawkery in the world won't wash the taste of betrayal out of GOPers' mouths that Maverick McCain has left over the years. Still better than Hillary, but he's been talking out of both sides of his mouth for too long. Very unlikely to win the nomination. Nose-holder extraordinaire.
Anyone who's had LDS proselytizers knock on their door knows that Mormons can tend toward the "creepy and a little weird" end of the spectrum--especially when someone brings up all that 19th-century polygamy business, and of course the underwear. I've known people from most faiths who spike my creep-o-meter, though, so for me that's a wash, and Mitt himself doesn't register on it anyway. Mormons actually represent some of the best family-values practitioners out there (Mitt's the only candidate so far who's still on his first wife, for example), so the LDS "factor" isn't one for me, though it may very well be for some.
My issue with Mitt is that he's got the potential to be a Republican Kerry--a flip-flopper. I know that he was governor of the People's Republic of Massachusetts, but that doesn't mean he gets a pass on his past abortion support, or other left-of-center positions that have seen a turnaround since he left office and began looking at a Presidential run. I need to know more, but for now he bothers me in that "voted against it before voting against it" way. Another nose-holder. Better Mitt than Hillary.
Is Newt Gingrich Back?
Now we're getting interesting. :-) On the surface Newt has one of Rudy's weaknesses--the three-wives thing--but the times being what they are, finding an unblemished candidate on that front is becoming difficult.
At the very least, though, Newt has an established record of conservative legislation and voting. He's got good conservative ideas and ideals, knows Washington and its ins and outs, and has a rep for going on the attack when it's necessary. See Rudy, above, for our tiredness with passivity in the face of attack at the White House. Newt's the first candidate in this lineup that I'm anything like enthused to vote for, as opposed to simply being a way to keep Hillary out of the Big Chair. Now if only he'd actually run.
Lights, Camera ... Candidacy?
Please, Lord, please, may we be so lucky.
Okay, negatives first. One divorce in the 1980s from a wife he married when he was 17. Support for McCain-Feingold campaign-finance reform, which he seems to regret, from the article "Lights, Camera ... Candidacy?" linked above:
Conceding that McCain-Feingold hasn't worked as intended, and is being riddled with new loopholes, he throws his hands open in exasperation. "I'm not prepared to go there yet, but I wonder if we shouldn't just take off the limits and have full disclosure with harsh penalties for not reporting everything on the Internet immediately."Hell yes. On to the positives: Fred's pro-life, pro-second-amendment, pro-muscular-defense, pro-free-market, pro-conservative-in-general, and a strict constructionist. Other than wanting a more thorough repudiation of McCain-Feingold I have no serious policy issues with the man.
As a candidate, he's well-spoken, has a commanding physical and personal presence, is known as a straight shooter, and has a proven conservative track record in government. He's also well-known and well-liked thanks to his long tour on Law and Order, and has the distinction of having uttered the line, "Russians don't take a dump, son, without a plan" in the movie version of Hunt for Red October. Fantastic. Avuncular, even.
In case you can't tell, I really like Fred Thompson. Now if, like Newt, he'd only state for the record that he's running.
PS. Re: the divorce thing, as a divorcé myself, some might argue I have no business bringing the matter up, or thinking it important, but it's become a minor sub-issue around the Republican candidate race, so I figured it made sense to include it here. Shucks, Reagan was our first divorced President, and Clinton is still married to his first wife. Goes to show that it's not that simple a gauge. Newt and Rudy, though, also have well-known and documented affairs on their records, which is IMO a much simpler gauge, and a substantive black mark against both candidates.