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In the week leading up to the South Carolina Primary the headline became—and then there were four.   Following the results of Saturday’s vote, it is becoming increasingly clear that the headline going forward will be—and then there were two.

At the heart of the wild ride that this nominating process has been is a reality that Newt Gingrich referenced in his victory speech Saturday night.  The four candidates left are all from different backgrounds and each is giving voice to unique portions of the Republican ideology.  Like most Republicans this cycle, how this cast of characters interplays with my specific political stances has made for a very difficult decision in where to place my support and who to root for.  Here is how I see it.

While Gingrich and Romney look to be the two that future voters will largely decide between, Ron Paul is probably the closest to my own personal views on most of the issues, and champions what I want to see happen domestically.  In terms of who is the most likable of the four, Rick Santorum wins this for me by a large margin.  When it comes to who I see as the most electable I believe the answer to be Gingrich and Romney.

Mitt and Newt

Months ago I went on record with my opinion that Mitt Romney would ultimately fall short in his effort to win this nomination.  Though I may end up being proven right, it will mainly be for reasons un-forecasted at the time.  There are two things hurting Romney right now, one is policy based and the other is political.

The policy issue giving Conservatives pause is Romney’s relatively small solutions to what most see as huge problems.  Though he talks the talk of changing Washington, voters who inform themselves of his economic proposals find that he is not embracing dramatic changes to either our tax code or our economic system.  The political problem befalling him currently is his reaction to releasing his tax returns.  Yesterday morning on Fox News Sunday he committed to releasing only his returns from 2010 and 2011.  Whether true or not, his unwillingness to disclose more screams that he is trying to conceal something damaging.

These two issues are so devastating because one affects the in-depth policy voter and the other affects the more surface level voter.  Combined, these drawbacks are putting a huge hole in what has been his biggest positive—that he is the most electable candidate in a match-up with President Obama.  Along these lines, if on any level there indeed is damaging facts inside his tax records his “electability” advantage will be nearly wiped out.

Prior to the Iowa Caucuses I also went on record with my support for Newt Gingrich.  You can click the link to read my reasoning, and it still remains the same.  The frustrating thing about Newt is that, to this point, he has been immensely more likable when he is losing.  Each time he has enjoyed success throughout this process he has managed to come off as pompous and over-confident.

If he is able to put his head down, humbly work for every vote, and keep the focus on his vision and his 21st Century Contract With America, he has a very good chance at eventually surpassing Romney.  As the weeks pass he is beginning to erode the notion that Romney is more electable and elevate the case that he would be just as, if not better, suited to face Obama in a general election campaign.

The main arguments for this is his superior position in refuting Obama Care, his optional 15% flat tax contrasted to Romney’s tax code tinkering, and his past record of large scale government achievement.  The X-factors that will impact this race going forward will be how Romney handles the tax return issue and whether or not Newt can stay humble and focused on working hard for votes in the wake of his recent surge.

If this cycle has proved anything so far it is that predictions are foolish.  The only wise move is to keep watching everything…and to not bet on anything.

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