Having actively followed Republican presidential politics since Goldwater got the nomination in 1964, I was delighted to attend the recent Southern Republican Leadership Conference in Oklahoma City. I heard 12 speeches from serious presidential possibilities (eight live and four remote).
This is the most wide-open race for the Republican nomination in at least 64 years.
Though Jeb Bush was an outstanding governor of Florida and is both the son and the brother of former presidents, anticipate competition rather than a coronation. Nor will Republicans make their often-repeated mistake of awarding the nomination to the last cycle’s runner-up.
There are at least 12 distinguished and capable candidates who could get the nomination. They realize millions of Americans are deeply concerned about the direction of our country. The stakes are so high that Republicans can and will come together with strong support for the nominee.
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As an enthusiastic Ben Carson supporter, I was not expecting to leave with a new favorite. But I told myself to be open to a new conclusion, if warranted, after more exposure to the candidates. Over and over I found myself more impressed than I expected.
We need a president who is trustworthy, with character deserving the respect of Americans; who recognizes that liberty and justice for all require a strong national defense; and who advances economic policies that promote freedom and opportunity rather than crony capitalism and government dependency.
The inspirational stories of Carson, Chris Christie, Ted Cruz, Carly Fiorina, Lindsey Graham, Bobby Jindal, Marco Rubio and Scott Walker ignite both gratitude and optimism. With a field of such impressive possibilities, who might capture the hearts and minds of Americans yearning for leadership that can make a difference?
Almost 1,000 registrants voted in the straw poll. Cruz took third with 16.6 percent, Walker was second with 20.5 percent, and the winner was Carson with 25.4 percent. Most registrants probably voted (as I did) before hearing the best speech, during which I took off my Carson sticker.
Though Carson has the practical wisdom and gracious spirit to unite our country, Fiorina has exceptional communication skills, proven leadership capacity, a command of the issues, and the resolve to change our sick government. Though the others were truly impressive and inspired confidence, she struck me as one with the experience and expertise to provide the extraordinary leadership our times require.
While speaking briefly with Fiorina after her talk, I said: “If you get enough exposure, you will get the nomination.” She agreed.
We are blessed to live in a country where a former secretary who rose to become CEO of one of the world’s largest technology corporations may become the first female president of the United States.
J. Richard Coe lives in Wichita.