"There's no perfect candidate. The question is what flaws can you put up with."
Such idealism suffers as a defining element in the noisy bid to win the minds, if not the hearts, of conservative Iowans. For too many weeks , they have been subjected to the most abject level of Manichean politics in which all issues are resolved within the eternal struggle between good and evil. There are limits to how far that can take a candidate, particularly when all are piously saying the same thing.
Despite the $6 million spent on TV ads to fetch the true believers to the polls, the turnout is projected to be something less than the crowd for an OSU-Michigan football game.
At least the fans in the stands arrive with their minds firmly set on separating the good from the evil on the field.
The less- than-enthusiastic audience has been asked to distinguish the undistinguishable - true conservative vs. unflinching conservative; original conservative vs. Reagan conservative; defender of freedom and faith vs. defender of unburdened freedom and more ardent faith. It's easy to see, if one thought seriously about it, why there were flaws everywhere.
Even the national pollsters have had some trouble tracking the less-flawed and the more-flawed. Take the word of Gallup, which has seen front-runners rise like jumping beans, only to be overtaken the next day by another bean:
"Historical comparisons can be problematic given differences in the number of candidates and the number of polls conducted each election. It still seems clear that this phase of 2012 Republican nomination process has been the most volatile for the GOP in the advent of polling."
Whoever wins Tuesday night - there has to be a winner, folks - the real question will be, what does it all mean? At the top of the heap will be candidate chosen by a relatively small group of voters in a turnout that is expected to be no more than 20 percent of the registered Republican voters in Iowa. As the candidates, their entourages and the media army pack up for the next stop in the Granite State, there will doubtless be many others who go to bed that night saying: "Good riddance."