When it comes to choosing the next president, the issue that looms largest in my mind is war in general, Iraq in particular. Out of all the political issues that our country faces, war policy is the one where the president has the greatest individual influence, so a candidate's position on war is usually the thing I look at first.
I don't know if any of the candidates would carry out the policy that I think is needed in Iraq, but I think there is only one major candidate who could do it. (You know what I mean by major candidates, right? The ones we expect to get at least a bronze medal in the primaries.)
Before there is talk about how long our troops should stay or when they should leave, we must first confront the fact that it was WRONG for us to have invaded Iraq in the first place. I don't really want a president who would withdraw from Iraq just because things are going badly there or because the war was poorly managed. That would leave the door open for other preemptive wars, provided that we carry them out better. No way. We first have to acknowledge that preemptive war is evil, that we have wronged the Iraqi people, and that we want to make right what we have done wrong. In Christian lingo (not everyone is Christian, but I am and so is Mr. Bush), this is called repentance. Once we have faced that truth, then we can work with the Iraqis and the international community to make a plan for what kind of presence we should have there and for how long.
The only major candidate who can legitimately take this position is Senator Barack Obama. The main Republican candidates support the war. And the other leading Democrats, while they are critical of Bush now, voted in favor of the war resolution at the beginning, which means that they at least support the idea of preemptive war as viable option.
So I'm hoping for a win by Obama. I'm not planning to vote for him myself, though. I live in California, a state that is usually expected to go Democrat, so I feel very comfortable voting for fringe candidates. I expect to cast my vote for Joe Schriner, a pro-life liberal who is running as an independent. The only thing that could change that would be if Obama were the Democratic nominee and there were questions about which way California was going to go.
UPDATE (February 2): Shame on me for not knowing this sooner! I just found out early last week that California is not a completely closed primary! Independents can vote in the Democratic primary. So I'm going to vote for Obama in the primary and then most likely vote for Schriner in the general election.