Destination 2012 As I sit at my laptop scrolling through Yahoo!'s 2012 candidate profiles, not one particular individual has struck a severe nerve in me yet. As an 18 year old, I take the civic duty of voting in the upcoming election very seriously as it is one of the most important decisions that will be made in my lifetime. However, I am beginning to feel bogged down in all the "junk" the candidates have to offer. Help?

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I agree with the earlier posts that it is best to wait until next summer, when the choices will be clearer. The Republican debates this year have been surprisingly helpful in revealing the strengths and weaknesses of the various Republican contenders.  There is even a chance that by next summer a third party candidate (or a wealthy individual such as Donald Trump) may be in the race.  Of course, how you vote will depend upon the direction you would like to see the country take.  This does seem to be an unusually important electrion coming up, if only because of the very worrying state of the economy and the prospect of economic collapse if something is not done about the federal budget.  I see no easy answers.  Thanks for taking your responsibility so seriously.  One further bit of advice: you may want to read arguments from both ends of the political spectrum.  If you go to, you will see links many different magazines and columnists.  Throughout the forthcoming year, you way want to read articles from the left in magazines such as The Nation and The New Republic and on the right from magazines such as National Review and Commentary.

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I agree with wannam: wait until the candidates have been "trimmed" down. Normally, I do not even begin to look at who I am going to vote for until it is down to the final ballot. I have felt bogged down, like you are feeling now, and simply decided it was best to wait. After that, listen to what each of the candidates say and choose the one who most fits your idea of what you want in a president.

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It is easy to get bogged down in the political rhetoric at this point.  I tend to wait until there are only two or three candidates before I really tune in.  Half the time, politicians will change their perspectives once they are selected to run for their party.  The GOP is really laying it on thick right now because the democrats already have their candidate selected.  Once the GOP selects a final candidate, some of the confusion will clear up.

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It's hard to know, isn't it.  You have to wade through so many things for so many candidates...

Here's my thinking.  For the GOP primaries (if you can vote in those) forget about Bachmann, Paul, Huntsman, and Santorum.  Those four essentially have no chance anymore.  My guide to the other four is:

  • Romney is the moderate.  He doesn't believe strongly in conservative ideas like being pro-life or anti-illegal immigrant.  His whole thing is that he was a businessman and would be able to do a better job running the country than Obama who, he says, is in over his head.  If you are fairly moderate, he's your man.
  • Cain is the total anti-establishment guy.  He is proud to not know much about "Beki-beki-beki-stan" as he said.  He thinks that everything can be solved by just using a bit of common sense.  He doesn't know much about government and hasn't held elected office.  If you want something completely different, he's for you.
  • Gingrich is the brainy guy.  He has a lot of big ideas about totally changing America.  He's an insider type who was once the Speaker of the House, but he says he's an outsider now.
  • Perry is falling badly so may not be very important.  His big thing was that he was the Governor of Texas and says that it was his leadership that made Texas do pretty well economically during the recession.  He says he can do that on a national level.

Right now, it's basically those three guys, all of whom have fairly similar ideas, competing to be the anti-Romney.  So, do you want a fairly middle-of-the-road guy, or do you want someone who's going to be more revolutionary?

I realize that's a total oversimplification, but it's hard to do justice to all of them in this kind of space.

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You have not mentioned your political preference, which is probably a good thing. If I were you, I'd keep that to myself and hear what others have to say about the field.

In my opinion, there are only two possibilities: Barack Obama, the incumbent candidate, and one of the nine Republican challengers. If you lean American Left, the choice is easy enough. If you lean American Right, it becomes more about which candidate you feel is the most honest. (I specify American Left/Right because the two terms mean different things outside the U.S.)

Now, there are many, many reasons to choose any single candidate, ranging from the simplistic -- skin color, gender, faith, age, etc. -- to the complex and pointless: "Candidate A, what is your position on the use of fluoride in drinking water and do you think it is a possible contributor to Global Climate Change?" The answer from Ron Paul will be vastly different from that of Jon Huntsman.

One of the things I would urge you to do is become as informed about the person behind the candidacy as possible. We know them all as public figures, and more about some than others. For example, we know that Mitt Romney has a contentious history with the American Right, considering his RomneyCare plan in Massachusetts, but he was considered the frontrunner based entirely on his business skills in 2008 before John McCain won the field. We know that Herman Cain is an extremely successful businessman, but now he is under fire for unconfirmed sexual harassment during his career... and we have to wait with bated breath to find out if the allegations are true or not; if they are, he will likely be cast aside. And we all know that Michelle Bachmann is a darling of the Tea Party for her outspoken views on Conservatism, but only people on the American Right seem to know that she also raised 23 foster children.

These are the sorts of things I would focus on, at least until we start to lose candidates and narrow the field. We all know about the hot-button issues -- no one will shut up about them! Instead, see who you think is honest, less partisan, and who says things you want a President to say.

The debate website has a very good page on the 2012 Presidential Elections. The site itself does not, to me, appear to have a political affiliation, but I'm sure die-hards on either side would see it as skewing opposite... such is the nature of political blinders.

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