- The Washington Times - Sunday, December 27, 2015

It’s nail biting time.

Anyone who has been deeply enmeshed in politics at the presidential level knows down deep that it’s a good thing the people who vote in the primaries and caucuses don’t know the candidates as well as those who work with them on a daily basis. We tend to make heroes of those we support, focusing on their strengths and ignoring or forgiving their weaknesses; conveniently forgetting that they are human with the strengths and weaknesses of the rest of us. Some are arrogant and completely self-centered, others run because they are addicted to power and still others, but fewer than one might suspect run because they want to serve or think they can leave the country better off than they see it today. Someone once summed all this up by dividing candidates into those who run because they want to do something and those who want to be somebody.

Still, at the end of the day voters have to choose from among those willing to put themselves forward. As the need to make actual choices approaches, millions of voters begin to look at the candidates differently than they did during the period when, as Republican pollster Ed Goeas likes to put it, they were simply “window shopping.” They move from applauding wannabes who say things they like to those they believe can be trusted with the awesome responsibilities of the presidency. They wonder, for example, whether a Donald Trump’s braggadocio is something they and the rest of the world can put up with for four or eight years or whether Dr. Ben Carson’s humility and bedside manner really qualify him to deal with the likes of Vladimir Putin.

None of the candidates are perfect and some have already been clearly rejected by most voters, but a few are likely to get a more serious look in the days ahead because the time for making real choices is fast approaching. The Iowa caucuses will bring tens of thousands of Iowans out in what will by then be a cold, wintery night to several hundred homes and other venues to discuss and argue the merits of the various candidates before voting. Iowans don’t usually or even all that often decide which of the candidates will finally emerge as the Republican nominee, but they take their responsibilities seriously; those with a passing interest in or enthusiasm for one candidate or other often don’t make it to the actual caucuses and many who do show up actually listen to the discussion and some change their minds before voting. For those who believe the nominating process is completely manageable or that the wannabe with the most money will automatically emerge from the process a winner should visit Iowa on caucus night or New Hampshire as voters in that state prepare to vote; both demonstrate that democracy still thrives among those who know their votes can make a real difference.

The San Bernardino and Paris terrorist attacks along with the sense that ISIS poses a real threat and is on the march have combined to convince American voters that important as the economy might be, the next president may have to deal with national security issues as important as those we faced during the Cold War. That realization will force voters to focus on the candidates as they haven’t really had to in recent presidential cycles. In such times slogans like those that dominated the airwaves in 2008 and 2012 won’t cut it. They will be looking for a leader who they believe they can trust to act in a crisis neither they nor the candidate can predict; a crisis in which their lives and the future of their way of life could be at stake. That’s a consideration every voter ponders as he or she casts a ballot for president in times like these.

Add to all this the feeling among millions of Americans that their country is at a tipping point and that to avoid disaster they need a candidate who can win in the fall. Some voters when they weigh these considerations may find the candidate they’ve been attracted to wanting and opt for another who under other circumstances might not have been their first choice.

You see, it’s nail biting time. The window shopping was fun, but now things are getting real. It’s why they say the only poll that really counts in politics is the one that takes place at the ballot box.

David A. Keene is Opinion editor at The Washington Times.

Sign up for Daily Opinion Newsletter

Manage Newsletters

Copyright © 2020 The Washington Times, LLC. Click here for reprint permission.

Please read our comment policy before commenting.


Click to Read More and View Comments

Click to Hide