It can be tedious, but it matters

By Walt Braun

The presidential election campaign seems to have been going on forever, so Americans probably ought to be glad that the Iowa caucuses are but a week away.

That those caucuses are earlier than they’ve ever been doesn’t seem to matter much; Iowa moved up its contest to stay ahead of other states that sought to elevate the importance of their own primaries, wooing candidates and candidate and media money in the process.

By next Wednesday, a lot of those candidates — and there still are a lot of Republican candidates — will have departed for New Hampshire. And where the candidates go, the national press corps goes.

It matters, though sometimes it seems that the continuous presence of the candidates and the nonstop chatter on network news and political talk shows diminishes both the process and the individuals.

It’s all but certain that one of these individuals — Michele Bachmann, Newt Gingrich, Jon Huntsman, Ron Paul, Rick Perry, Mitt Romney or Rick Santorum — will be the Republican nominee for the office of President of the United States. That’s important.

The talking heads — the TV pundits, not the candidates — seem to think Republican voters have had their fill of the flavor of the week and may just be coming to the conclusion that Mr. Romney is best positioned to defeat President Barack Obama. Mr. Romney is not as conservative as conservatives would like and has changed his position on important issues more than should make any American comfortable.

But if he can beat President Obama, the Republican thinking goes, all would be forgiven, at least until he and Congressional Republicans have issues to fight about.

There’s no certainty that Mr. Romney will defeat President Obama, much less win the nomination. Which leaves, well, the familiar faces, none of whom has demonstrated real staying power. Mr. Paul has his share of avid supporters, but is among the longest of long shots. As for Mr. Gingrich, he’s admired by some, especially those who want to see him debate President Obama. Even many of those folks, however, would acknowledge that debating savvy is not a qualification for president. The incumbent has demonstrated that a bit too effectively.

Rather than focus on these candidates’ weaknesses, let us credit each of them with determination and staying power that in most cases exceeds both their campaign treasuries and their odds of winning.

Such determination is, after all, a pretty good trait in a president.

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