The Psychological Approach to the Presidential Election
Here's my current primary criterion for the President: I have to like his personality.
By this, I mean that his personality must be suited to how I believe he'll perform in the job, not necessarily that I think he'd tell the best anecdotes at a dinner party.
I contrast this against strictly voting for someone based on an abstract alignment of his or her policy positions with mine.
The reason for this is philosophical. I believe in two contested philosophical positions: 1) I believe in Natural Law, and 2) I believe it the meaningful (if not perfect) ascertainability of Natural Law. As this applies to a President, what I believe is that most policy questions have right answers in an absolute (if approximate) sense. And so I believe the right kind of personality should be able to get to the right answers most of the time, or at least more often than the wrong type of personality.
However, what I have seen is that most politicians have personalities poorly suited for this process I've outlined of getting to the right answers. For example, President Bush has shown a strong tendency to be stubborn, unwilling to make thoughtful inquiry into matters, and unwilling listen to positions that contradict his own. I think a reasonable relationship can be seen between this and our entrance into the Iraq war (details of this are abundant, and I won't outline them here) (also, compare this to what I don't mean by personality, as it appears that President Bush would make a fairly amiable dinner guest).
This I why I currently prefer in order Sen. Obama, and then probably either Sen. Biden or Sen. McCain. (btw: can we perhaps refer to these men and women who are running for leader of the free world by their titles, giving them they honor they are due, as opposed to by their first names?). I've seen all of these men display remarkable candor and thoughtfulness, which for me are marks of good personalities for the pursuit of getting right answers to hard questions.
(update: I just reviewed Gov. Huckabees proposals for healthcare and taxes, and basically they strike me as ludicrous to the point he's fallen off my list of good candidate...so policy is relevant to disproving a certain candidate's ability to get to the right answers)
This isn't to say policy positions play no role in my thinking, but, for example, my currently policy positions are actually fairly well aligned with Gov. Romney's. However, Gov. Romney has shown me so far a lack of candor and thoughtfulness, not to mention notable changes of policy positions over the years that are consistent with his reputation for self-serving expediency, and so I don't trust him to implement policies I agree with. I voted for President Bush in 2000 based on our shared pro-life position (which he has stuck to); however I've learned during his tenure that issues will arise during a presidency that are outside the scope of the policy positions the candidate took during the election season--when the unknown arises, I want a certain type of person there to meet that challenge. And further, the fact that a person articulates a desire to bring about a certain policy has only a tenuous relationship with whether that policy will be implemented due to numerous circumstances outside that person's control.
Another factor which has some bearing on the issue is a candidate's experience. The best prior job I can imagine to prepare a person for being president is possibly the vice presidency. But the Vice President isn't running, and it's not clear to me that any senator, governor or former First Lady has a clear leg up on the other candidate in terms of relevant prior experience.
So, that's why my primary reason for favoring certain candidates is their personality which I perceive as thoughtful and truthful.
Go ahead and tell me if you think this is crazy. I'm sure at least one of you does.