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OK, so I’ll admit I missed the boat on this one. I didn’t find out about last night’s debate until this morning. But when I found out, I did watch it, and I think I’m starting to get a bead on the various candidates. So here are my thoughts in a nutshell about the eight Republicans who participated in the “CNN Tea Party Debate” last night:

Rick Perry: This guy, for whatever reason, seems to have an almost hypnotic effect on conservatives. He creates an aura of “Look at me, I’m so conservative,” and frankly, I can’t figure out why. The man is a former Democrat who supported Al Gore in 1988 and ordered 12-year-old girls to receive a virus for a sexually transmitted disease. Clearly, hypnosis is the only explanation for his popularity with the Religious Right.

In Sum: Not a conservative, just a mesmerist.

Herman Cain: The obligatory black guy. That’s pretty much it. He has no political experience, he’s made promises he can’t possibly keep(“I will make the tax rates permanent.”), and frankly, his dialect is not what we need to increase the prestige of our country at this time.

In Sum: Race card.

Mitt Romney: I don’t think there’s a living Republican I despise more than Mitt Romney. The man implemented socialized health care and he’s pro-abortion, despite lying about that fact when convenient. How again is he different from Obama?

In Sum: Obama in whiteface.

Michele Bachmann: I can’t imagine why this woman is still in the race, except to suppose that guys think she’s hot or something. Her answer to almost everything is some variation on “I oppose/would repeal Obamacare” or “Barack Obama will be a one-term President!!” All hot air and no real ideas.

In Sum: A caricature.

Rick Santorum: Santorum’s tolerable on abortion and good on gay “marriage,” not completely horrible even if less than one expects from a Traditionalist Catholic, but much of his policy is based on the idea that the United States Federal Government has not only the authority but the moral obligation to stop every bad thing happening everywhere in the world. This unsustainable and very dangerous policy’s logical conclusion is one-world government under the evidently infallible control of these united States.

In Sum: A mediocrity at best, a megalomaniac at worst.

Jon Huntsman: OK, I’ll admit, this guy baffles me. He seems to have a distinct aura of nonentity. No matter how many times I see this guy, no matter how many times I hear him speak, I just can’t help asking myself “Who is that again? And what’s his deal?” He is a complete nothing. It’s like he’s carrying a perception filter.

In Sum: Who?

Newt Gingrich: Seriously? This guy’s a joke. He is the candidate of “let’s all just get along and bash Obama.” And as strongly as I oppose Obama, I find Gingrich’s effort to avoid discussing issues Republicans disagree on during the debates among Republican candidates absolutely intolerable. And that’s not to mention the serious moral issues in his personal life(if you bash the Prince of Wales, you had damn well better not vote for Newt Gingrich, not that I expect many people will).

In Sum: Why can’t we all just get along?

And finally,

Ron Paul: Ron Paul is the candidate of reason. He believes in minding our own business when it comes to foreign policy, cutting spending and taxes, and generally putting the country back on the path of sanity, and he has consistently voted for those principles. Despite my having a few reservations(deriving mainly from his vote to repeal DADT), Ron Paul remains the only rational choice for President this election. His stance on abortion(it should be handled by the States) might put off some conservatives, but I’d point out to them that some States would handle the issue better than the Feds, it’s tough to imagine anyone handling it worse, and if abortion were criminalized at the Federal level, it would be the only kind of murder to be treated so.

In Sum: The candidate of common sense and sound policy.