First off, I want to apologize for being missing in action. All my time has been sucked up by THE PUBLIC POLICY DIMENISON OF BEING STUCK WITH VIRTUE CONFERENCE, which was a huge success. More on that soon.

The dominant tendency of Republicans is now called, in several places, ABR. The likely voters have spoken through the polls: They want anyone but Romney. The problem is, I repeat, there is no plausible candidate but Romney.
So our distinguished guests at the conference who want the Republicans to win all assume Romney will get the nomination, and he’ll be good enough. I think there’s no reason to assume that, given that a strong majority of those likely voters have shown no inclination to vote for him under any circumstances.

I was right to predict the Paul surge, but I may have been wrong to think it has definite limits. Certainly Pete is right in his very precise and informative post below that Paul is looking better. He’s authentic, trustworthy, well informed, and seems to know how to treat women. There are disturbing things in his past, but they involve writing, not touching or talking or womanizing or wife-dumping or “consulting.” Most of all, he has an enthusiastic following, and his people, as the NYT reports today, are running a great ground game in Iowa.

Still, his utopian, isolationist foreign policy disqualifies him in my book. Plus there’s little to no evidence he’d actually be a competent executive, doing what’s required to mend—not end—our basic entitlement programs. And he’s too old. I probably couldn’t vote for him. Before you get too mad at me, rmemember we have plenty of reason to doubt that Paul will support the eventual Republican nominee. So this party loyalty thing cuts both ways.

I’ve already alluded to Newt’s vices, which I think disqualify him. Besides, Pete is right that he sounds smart but is really out of touch.

ABRers: It’s so obvious that why should I have to say that neither Paul nor Gingrich can come close toe beating the president.

Jim Capretta, a real gentleman and a fascinting parner in conversation, ably defended the view at Berry that welfare-state dependency causes people to calculate that they don’t need kids to be secure when they get old. Bill English criticized that view with more real data that I knew about. They agreed, though, against the libertarians that we need policies that encourage and reward fertility, and that we don’t simply need more young people, but more people with the moral virtue to be live good and productive lives. The candidates need really to attend to these areas of agreement and disagreement.

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