Now that the actual primary campaign (with voting, I mean) has begun, it might be worth taking note of a real benefit this crazy campaign has had for the electorate. With no fewer than six national front-runners at various times (Romney, Trump, Bachmann, Perry, Cain, Gingrich), we've had a chance to get a close look at more candidates than ever. Ordinarily, the press will find only one or two candidates worthy of a good sifting through their past. But this time, nearly all the candidates have been subject to close examination, and the harsh national spotlight reveals all flaws. If you're wondering what skeletons John Huntsman has in his closet, it's because he's the only candidate who hasn't been ahead (or nearly so). Everybody else has had their moment, so we've learned in detail about Perry's Texas record (not so impressive), Gingrich's entrepreneurial career (quite impressive in its way), Bachmann's religious beliefs (a little scary), Ron Paul's newsletters (both nutty and scary), and so on. In fact, the person who has gotten the least scrutiny may be Mitt Romney, but there's plenty of time for that.
That has already—even with only one state yet voting—made this one of the most informative primary campaigns I can remember. That isn't to say it's been informative when it comes to issues and policy, but you can't say any of these people snuck by without us being able to get a good, hard look at them. What we've found has been varying shades of ugly. And just you wait until we hear more about Rick Santorum.
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