Less than eleven months remain before the first votes are cast selecting our next President. The Granite Staters like to say Iowa picks corn and New Hampshire picks presidents. The truth is Iowans decide who’s left for New Hampshire to pick from. I wrote last month I’d be exploring the GOP field in my coming columns. But this column will be my last so I’m compelled to do a Cliff Notes version.

Ted Cruz: The Spoiler

The junior Senator from Texas has made as many, if not more, trips to Iowa than anyone in an effort to make things difficult for Huckabee. Not specifically Huckabee, but Cruz is going after the “values voter” and shows up every time Bob Vander Plaats has an open microphone. So, yeah, he and Huckabee are competing for the same votes. Bet on Huckabee.

Rick Santorum: The Defending Champion

The winner last time is making rumblings about running again. Santorum peaked at exactly the right time beating Romney by a whisker. In a race when everyone had their turn at the top of the polls, Santorum’s turn came when people were actually voting. For those keeping score, that’s Cruz, Huckabee and Santorum all trying to divide a 50,000 voting block between them – and we haven’t gotten to Bobby Jindal yet. Still bet on Huckabee.

Jeb Bush: The Legacy

Barbara Bush has recanted her “there’ve been enough Bushes,” and thinks America will embrace one more. There are a lot of things I like about Governor Bush of Florida. I like Common Core – remember this was started by GOP governors to bring standards to education. But politics is a cyclical business and what is popular today may be unpopular tomorrow – ask Newt and Mitt about individual mandates for health care. So what was once embraced by conservatives as needed to prepare our kids for the global workforce is now attacked, not just by the teachers unions but also the Tea Party. Bush has said he’d rather lose the election than change who he is. That’s a level of courage few politicians demonstrate. I admire him for it.

Chris Christie: the Force of Nature

Expect to see a lot of familiar faces from the Branstad campaign working the caucus circuit for Christie. With Bush in the race it won’t just be the “values voters” divvying up their voting bloc. The establishment wing will be split. Christie’s challenge is to raise enough dough out of the Northeast to match the Bush family rolodex. That’s a tall order. Also complicating life for Christie is having to govern back home in New Jersey. Christie’s plain speaking, willing to confront the opposition, anti-PC style will win the hearts of a lot of caucus goers. Sounding like he’s from Jersey is fine, the trick is to not act like he’s from Jersey.

Scott Walker: Man of the Moment

It wasn’t long ago that business almost ground to a halt in the Wisconsin capitol building as chanting protestors tried to shut down the government in response to Walker’s move to reform public employee bargaining. The unions responded by forcing Walker into a recall election, which he won. That’s three statewide elections in four years, no easy feat. More than one Republican has challenged the unions only to be defeated either in the Capitol or at the ballot box. Today Walker stands atop the most recent poll of caucus goers – but at only 24% the front runner status isn’t prohibitive. Walker’s two biggest challenges are he is relatively unknown west of Dubuque, and fundraising. It’s one thing for conservatives across the country to pour in money for your recall, it’s quite another when choosing among primary candidates. Because of its proximity and low cost to campaign Walker has to beat Bush and Christie in Iowa to stay viable. There is no future past Iowa if he doesn’t.

The media traditionally says are three tickets out of Iowa. I expect this year to be different. There will be Rand Paul, who should win; and then a winner of the values voter primary, an establishment primary winner, and a winner among the outsiders (Rubio, Fiorina, Perry, etc..). Four folks fight on to New Hampshire, South Carolina, Florida and the rest.

My hope is that folks who read this column take the opportunity to meet the candidates when in our area, and ask them questions. Please don’t make your decision based on something you read on Facebook, or see on a television ad. We have a unique responsibility here in Iowa, take it seriously and be an informed voter.

This, however, will be my last attempt to inform you in these pages. I appreciate the Journal providing me this opportunity. An equally big thank you to any and all that read this far each month. I’m not leaving town, I’ll just be writing and sharing my thoughts in another venue. On second thought, perhaps you should use social media to inform your decision, at least read my posts. Thanks for reading.