It looks like the frantic and desperate and search for a non-Romney candidate has failed. On the eve of the Iowa caucuses, the leadership skills of each candidate have been tried and found wanting. Where did they go wrong? Although much could be said, I’m going to highlight just one leadership lesson from each failed candidacy.

And I include Romney in this “fail” too, because although it looks like he will eventually soon emerge as the nominee, his continued inability to capture the hearts of most Republicans, despite the “carnage” of fails around him, is a terrible reflection on his own candidacy.

Rick Perry: Think fast, speak clearly.
A leader must be able to communicate clearly and confidently, not just in set speeches, but in debates and interviews too. You can press the hot-buttons of pro-life and traditional marriage as often as you want, but it will never make up for an inability to think on your feet and articulate your thoughts under pressure.

Michelle Baachman: Be positive and happy.
People want leaders who are not just against things, but who also present a positive and hopeful message. Happy leaders are usually popular leaders.

Rick Santorum: Be a friend of tax-collectors and sinners
There’s a difference between being the moral-values candidate and being the holier-than-thou candidate, If you’re going to take the moral high ground, you must not make people feel as if you are looking down your nose at them.

John Huntsman: You can be superior without making people feel inferior
If Santorum sabotaged himself with an air of moral superiority, Huntsmen did himself in with an air of intellectual superiority. No one ever connected with the masses by projecting the image of a pin-stripped diplomat or of an intellectual snob.

Ron Paul: Distinguish between personal preferences and people’s needs
You can have lots of great ideas, but two or three loopy policies will close people’s ears to anything you say.  In a time of great national peril, Paul sadly and selfishly  failed to distinguish between what the nation desperately needs (fiscal responsibility) and his own personal hobby horses (e.g. legalizing of Class A drugs and prostitution). Sometimes pragmatism is a moral virtue.

Herman Cain: Be sure your sins will find you out
Cain was finished as soon as he starting aggressively attacking his accusers. We’ve all seen guilty people react this way. An innocent man in his position would surely have come in front of the media and said something like, “As a man of great moral integrity, I’m humbled and shaken by these accusations. Having prayed over this before God, I can honestly say that I have a clear conscience. However, I’m deeply concerned for the women making these allegations, and plan to meet with each of them to see if I have ever done anything that would have made them say what they are saying.”

Newt Gingrich: People hate hypocrisy
Newt grasps the size of the nation’s problems, and has the brain and courage to produce the necessary policies, but he’ll never get the opportunity because of his moral and financial hypocrisy.  Although he seemed to be overcoming the moral failings with his “redemption and forgiveness narrative,” the Fannie Mae/Freddie Mac “history lessons” millions ruined the story.

Mitt Romney: Say “Sorry.”
Mitt Romney would have had so much more and so much warmer support if he’d simply said sorry for Romneycare. The defense that, “It was a tailor-made solution for my own state and never intended to be a model for the rest of the nation,” just doesn’t make any sense to anybody but his campaign.

Far better to have said, “We were pioneers in trying to find solutions to healthcare problems. I don’t apologize for trying, but with the benefit of hindsight, it’s obvious that we made mistakes for which I apologize. And with the benefit of that experience, I’m now in a position to lead our nation forward in finding a solution that will combine fiscal with moral responsibility.” Is it too late to say that? Of course, that alone won’t win over everybody to Romney. But it would at least indicate that he is sympathetic to, and wants to be supported by, the Tea-partiers and other Americans who rightly fear the over-reach of government into their lives.

Although I’ve picked out a flaw, in some cases a fatal flaw, in each of these candidacies, I think we must also express considerable admiration for the courage and sacrifice it takes to put oneself up for election in today’s media climate. America has thousands of leaders, from all walks of life, who would make better Presidents than any of the present candidates. They have all the character, morality, experience, knowledge, skills and abilities to lead this great country. But when they look at the moral and social consequences for themselves, their families, and their friends, they conclude that the cost is simply too high. That’s understandable, but deeply regrettable.

While we continue to pray for better leaders and for those in authority over us, it’s at times like these when it really is a comfort to remember Christ’s words, “My kingdom is not of this world.”