I’m encouraged by the way the Republican presidential nominating process is shaping up.

Yes, the guy who wrote “None of the Above: Why 2008 Is the Year to Cast the Ultimate Protest Vote” thinks there might be an actual choice in 2012.

In fact, I would say I could eagerly pull the lever for all but two of the candidates contending for the Republican nomination at this point. But let’s not dwell on the negative. Let’s accentuate the positive.

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The best news to date is the unexpectedly positive response from the public to Herman Cain’s candidacy. He is not just seen as a great new voice in Republican politics – someone who makes the debates more interesting. He is perceived as the favorite candidate among the grass-roots Republican voters nationwide, according to an increasing number of polls.

That doesn’t necessarily translate into caucus and primary wins – because that takes campaign organization on the ground. But Cain has done enormously well – and he hasn’t received a lick of encouragement from the Republican establishment, which is exactly what we should expect – and which is exactly what makes him so exciting.

Then there is Michele Bachmann, whose early star has faded somewhat since the Iowa straw poll. But she remains extremely impressive in her media appearances and the debates. She is formidable – and true-blue to the conservative agenda.

I could support either one of these candidates without reservations – without hesitation and without looking back. I believe they represent the kind of 180-degree turn we need from the Barack Obama regime.

Let’s look at the rest of the pack:

Rick Santorum has been impressive on his feet in the debates. He is, for the most part, a rock-solid conservative in his rhetoric and record. There are a couple reservations and hesitations I have that prevent him from getting my enthusiastic support:

  • his support of Arlen Specter over Pat Toomey in the Pennsylvania race for U.S. Senate still deeply troubles my soul;
  • his embrace of the awful Senate Republican leadership and party establishment during most of his tenure in office cannot be forgotten;

Nevertheless, if by some miracle he should get the nomination, I will support him.

Newt Gingrich has been animated and lively during the debates. One thing I’ll say for sure about him: The campaign would not be nearly as interesting without him. But I would be deeply conflicted about supporting anyone for president who continued to embrace the fraud of manmade, catastrophic climate change. It’s difficult for me to shed the image of him and Nancy Pelosi lecturing the nation about this hoax designed to redistribute wealth in the name of pseudo-science. There may be no one smarter or more intellectually astute than Newt in the field. But he also has a record of governance we cannot forget – mostly good, but sometimes very bad. I can’t help feeling Gingrich is one of those politicians who is a better speaker and motivator than he is a leader. Yet, compared to Obama, he is light years better and would be an interesting president in the unlikely event he got the nomination.

Rick Perry’s best idea is getting the U.S. energy independent. That’s a worthy goal, indeed. However, it seems to be one of his few great ideas. For conservatives, he’s a disappointment on illegal immigration, individual liberty and other issues. He has not been impressive in any debate and I fully expect his star to continue to fall. But, again, the biggest worry should he get the nomination would be whether he could actually go toe-to-toe with Obama – a very skilled debater.

Then there’s the very interesting Ron Paul – so good on so many issues, particularly his emphasis on the Constitution and personal freedom. I disagree with him on many specific issues, but there’s no denying that if he could ever win the presidency he would shake up the Washington establishment.

That leaves us with the two major candidates I could never support – even against Obama. They would be Mitt Romney and Jon Huntsman.

These are not conservatives. No how, no way. If either were to secure the nomination, I would be back to my “none of the above” ways in a heartbeat. I believe their liberal tendencies would re-emerge the minute they won office. And that’s not what we need to rescue this country from the devastation wrought already by Obama.

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