If we view each vote not as a piece of victory, but a piece of information to those who will lead us, then helping your guy move from a 17% to an 18% share if he is going to lose to a candidate with 30% no longer looks like such a thoroughly useless exercise. My vote is my communication - to a point.
The current state of the Assistant Village Idiot's projected vote next week:
I prefer Fred Thompson on most issues, but my vote may not go that way. Unless he surges in the polls here after Iowa, I have no interest in moving him from 3% to 4% in NH. For the rest, it boils down to A) what you think are going to be the main issues over the next four years and B) whether you are looking at floor or ceiling in a candidate. I tend toward limited government, and limited goals with my vote. I might consider with some energy who might be a truly great president - that would be Fred, in my book - but I also look at "who is least likely to screw up issue X?" In the end, it is the latter question which directs my vote. I depend on the American people for American greatness. I depend on elected officials to avoid screwing things up. The Ron Paul supporters are basically claiming he offers more ceiling than any of the others. That may be true. But he also offers very little floor. It is not hard to imagine a major cock-up with Paul at the helm. Theory seems to distract him from reality.
If you are looking at floor rather than ceiling, and consider Iraq and the GWOT to be the most important issue, then McCain rather jumps out of the pack. He is least likely to seriously screw up the war on terror. If you consider the economy to be the main issue, then Romney edges McCain. McCain will veto more spending and twist more arms, but he will not fight to keep the tax cuts. I think Giuliani loses out on both those issues - offering neither the floor nor the ceiling of the others.
If you think appointing judges, SCOTUS and otherwise, is paramount, then Romney, Thompson, and McCain all offer both high floor and high ceiling. I don't know where Huckabee's floor is on anything, but he would likely be alright here. With all of them except Thompson, I do worry that their downticket judicial appointees are going to include some political appointments.
If you think national unity, and bringing us all together without the rancor of the last eight years is most important, then you are likely to vote Huckabee. I disrespectfully submit that you are also likely to buy swampland in Florida for your retirement home. The only thing that a Republican can do to get the usual progressive suspects to cease their incessant criticism is to give in to their demands. They are not the least interested in getting along.
If what you really want is someone who will verbally kick Democrat butt, then you want McCain for the war, or Thompson for everything else. Similarly, if you want to emphasize that progressives are basically children, and conservatives adults, you want the same two. As a President/VP combo, they might over time illustrate to the American middle that the MSM is biased and the netroots are just crazy. That would be worth a lot to me.
I'm noticing that Giuliani isn't scoring high on many of these. I like Rudy, and don't think he'd be terrible. I believe his move rightward is sincere, but perhaps not deep.
It is most likely that economic and judicial issues are going to be most important, which would suggest I am leaning toward Romney if Thompson isn't viable. I don't think it will play out that way. Iraq and the GWOT remain the areas that can go most wrong most quickly, and I am trading off the other areas.
I can't believe I am leaning McCain, but I am. If you vote defensively, it makes some sense.
In case anyone asks, if I were voting in the Democratic Primary I would be suicidal.