The leading Republican candidates made their last-minute blitz for supporters in Iowa. They each personalized their credentials. The election struggle was a classic, with the candidates trying to out-rival each other over their dedication to conservatism.
A call for smaller government, lower taxes, and balancing the budget topped the agendas of nearly all the ultra-conservative candidates. One wonders why they seek to be at the helm of a powerless federal government.
Candidate Ron Paul hopes to eliminate the Social Security system, which has been in effect since 1935 when former President Franklin D. Roosevelt passed the Social Security Act in his New Deal. He supports Medicare, if it is run at the state level.
Paul, a medical doctor, took the strongest stand against the U.S. involvement in Iraq and Afghanistan. The other candidates in the Republican race took a more conservative stance, but none offered any viable solution to the nation’s economic woes. All ridiculed “Obamacare,” President Barack Obama’s health care program, and called for its elimination.
Former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich had a sudden leap in the polls — riding high one moment, and a flash in the pan the next. He nearly finished last, barely beating Minnesota Rep. Michele Bachmann and former Utah Governor and Ambassador Jon Huntsman in the Iowa caucus. Gingrich is liked, but his baggage — three marriages — seemed to hurt him in conservative Iowa.
Rick Santorum, former Pennsylvania congressman and senator, gave Bachmann a run for her money on conservative issues. Santorum is not only against abortion, but seems to oppose birth control as well. He opposes same sex marriage, and took heat in 2005 for an article he wrote in a Catholic publication implying there may be a connection between the church’s sex scandal and liberalism, which both center in Boston. Not only is he Catholic, he regularly attends Latin Mass in Northern Virginia. Campaigning paid off for Santorum, who showed up at 99 precinct battles and attended nearly 400 town meetings. Despite a late entry, Santorum finished with an impressive 24 percent of the votes in the Iowa caucus — second only to Mitt Romney.
Texas Governor Rick Perry had a late start, but has fizzled out. Perry denounced big government and praised free enterprise as our economic solution. He had a quick rise in support when he first appeared on the national stage, but his flubs and senior moments ultimately cost him the candidacy.
The clear front-runner before and after the Iowa caucus is Mitt Romney, businessman and former governor of Massachusetts. Romney has been viewed as the only candidate who could possibly give Obama a run for his money. Romney is the only moderate Republican candidate who has not aligned with the Tea Party.
The Republican Party presidential nomination for 2012 ultimately became a showdown between Romney and Santorum, as they each struggled to be to be the front-runner in the Iowa caucus. The Iowa contest is the first in a string of other contests in New Hampshire, South Carolina and Florida.
Santorum’s sudden rise as a close No. 2 to Romney shook up the race and brought into question the direction of the Republican Party. The party has rarely faced such a politically philosophical divide. Only a few votes separated Romney, who has deep pockets and well-padded resources to go the mile. He even managed to buy an ad in Times Square. We watched the ball fall directly in front of his ad on national television as we rang in the New Year.
The Iowa battle did not resolve the future of the Republican Party. Each of the Republican candidates called the current election the most important for the nation. We have not seen an election of this importance since ultra-conservative Barry Goldwater ran against former President Lyndon Johnson in 1964. All we can do is watch and hope the Republicans will ultimately choose a more moderate candidate.Helen Thomas' posts appear here courtesy of the Falls Church News-Press.