During the Republican primaries this spring there was a lot of talk about why Mitt Romney had so much trouble with the right flank. No one, it was said, was particularly excited about him. The momentum and enthusiasm swung wildly from one “not-Romney” candidate to another finally resting on Rick Santorum.
Even your loyal and humble blogger voted for Santorum at my party’s caucus in February. I wasn’t alone either. Santorum embarrassed Romney by winning Colorado handily. And the question of Mitt Romney’s appeal to conservatives continued.
The question that burned hottest was whether or not conservatives, after such a contentious primary, would support Romney when he finally secured the nomination and, if so, how enthusiastically would they do so?
I sense there is a different feeling in the electorate than there was in 2008. Back then I was to McCain what Ron Paul supporters are to Romney now. That is, I refused to vote for the man who kept sticking his thumb in conservative eyeballs every chance he had. I ended up voting for him because of Sarah Palin though reluctantly. The enthusiasm gap turned the election. It happens every election but this year, despite the Left’s efforts to the contrary, conservatives do have something to be excited about in 2012.
I am excited about Mitt Romney for the following reasons:
- Mitt Romney knows how to play hard ball. The speech at Solyndra is a perfect example. Romney used the Solyndra building as a backdrop to talk about the President’s failed policies and cronyism. And don’t forget it was Romney’s PAC that took out Gingrich before his campaign could get any electoral traction. One of the most disappointing things about McCain was his insistence on playing soft ball with Obama in 2008. We don’t have that problem with Romney in 2012. He is not afraid to throw at the hitter when the situation calls for it. Rhetorical wins like the Solyndra speech will translate to enthusiasm.
- Romney has laser-like focus on the President’s failed policies. Obama is not as polarizing a figure as you think. His policies have united people in opposition to him. Read or listen to Romney’s speeches and he focuses on the results of Obama’s policies none of which are very popular. The fact that Obama cannot hide from his record in 2012 is another advantage not had in 2008. He can blame, point fingers, and try to obscure but he can’t hide from it. Romney knows this and is willing to exploit it. That makes me giddy as a schoolgirl in a field of dandelions.
- Romney is conservative enough. One of the issues driving the “not-Romney” frenzy was concern over whether or not he would be reliably conservative. The fact is Romney is far more conservative than he was given credit for. Take three issues where Republicans are sometimes tempted to shade more liberal:
- Healthcare – Obviously the elephant in the room (or donkey in the room…hm). Romney has advocated Repeal and Replace but if the Supremes strike it down there would only be a need to fix healthcare. His plan does some very conservative things like limiting malpractice lawsuits, allow purchasing of insurance across state lines, and shoring up the tax code so the employed do not have an advantage over the unemployed when purchasing healthcare.
- Immigration – Romney wants to secure the border, enforce the current laws, and avoid incentivizing illegal immigration by giving amnesty to illegal immigrants.
- Education – Romney’s position favors as much choice as is possible, fixing No Child Left Behind, and taking on teacher’s unions.
Romney is advocating genuinely conservative policies. My question during the primaries was would he remain conservative after the election. Would he be reliably conservative? Or would we find ourselves in another Harriett Myers situation? It’s the main reason I caucused for Santorum. I wanted to send a message that we conservatives won’t tolerate less than conservative policies. Now, with the nomination secured by Romney we must take him at his word and accept that even if he shades to the moderate end of the stick after the election a moderate Republican is better than an extreme liberal.
- Romney will not pander in his VP pick. Pay attention to Romney when he answers the running mate question during interviews and you’ll see how seriously he takes this decision. His answer never changes. He always says he wants to select a running mate who will be capable of assuming the duties of the office if necessary. It’s a safe answer but it stands out in the current political climate because so much of what Obama does is clearly panhandling for votes (see last Friday’s immigration announcement) and the VP selection discussion usually revolves around what constituency a nominee is trying to court. Take the calls for Marco Rubio, for instance. Sure he is talented but he is also an American with Cuban descent and popular in Florida. He could help deliver that state and perhaps curry favor with the Hispanic community. Romney seems above that and has been auditioning various VP frontrunners by appearing with them in the last six months. We got to see him with Chris Christie in Iowa early on. Expect the final selection to be about competence which conveniently puts Obama’s incompetence into sharp relief.
- Romney has management experience. There are times when I was not sure how big an asset Romney’s business experience would be. Romney played it as proof he was an outsider in the primaries but it’s not outsider status that helps him most. Rather, it is the discipline of business and competence in management that stands out when contrasted with Obama. Romney will approach his administration as a machine and fine tune it to enhance his ability to help the country. There is something assuring about that quality to me.
- Romney has a positive message. He keeps saying something Americans want to hear which is that our country can be great again. We may have slipped a bit but only because our leadership did not believe in our core values. Romney is making the case that he believes in the American people. After hearing him, I am left feeling hopeful that he wins.
- Romney has a great voice. I know this sounds superficial but I like Romney’s voice. He sounds like an old-time radio announcer to me. He is very deliberate and precise with his pronunciation. This won’t be a game changer for anyone but I do believe his voice lends him some authenticity. It is easy to imagine him delivering messages from the Oval Office or the annual State of the Union with the dignity the Office requires. I doubt anyone ever thinks about this but it matters. A convincing voice and manner passes that first subconscious test of a person’s fitness for the office.
None of this means that Romney has no liabilities. Everyone does. But there are a few that are sure to crop up as the campaign wears on.
The question of how Evangelicals will respond to Romney’s Mormonism remains unanswered. If you’re on the fence read Why This Conservative Evangelical Counter-Cult Expert Will Vote for Romney by Douglas Groothuis. Excellent and convincing.
- Romneycare – As Rush said on Friday, “the Romneycare shoe has yet to drop.” The subject was broached in the primaries but nothing like it will be when Team Obama decides it’s time to pull out the catapults and start launching flaming balls of healthcare fire at the Romney campaign. Rest assured, Obama believes Romneycare inoculates him from the Obamacare issue and his campaign will do what they feel they must to make it true. Hopefully, Camp Romney is already preparing the defenses.
- Mormonism– It is a little incredible to think religion would be used as a weapon in 2012 but my money is betting that it shows up in insidious forms this year. Some of Obama’s key allies are still livid about the Mormon’s involvement in California’s Prop 8 election and I expect they will jump at the chance to malign Romney’s faith. You’ll know how panicked the Democrats are by how high up the food chain this criticism goes. If Obama pulls it out, however subtly in a debate, place the catering orders for the victory party. It will mean they are very desperate.
The polls are starting to come in that show Romney leading President Obama sometimes in surprising states. Still, it is very early in the general election. Romney has to stay the course, reach as many new voters as possible with a positive message and avoid any serious gaffes. He’s our horse now and I’m betting on him to make it across the finish line first. He wasn’t my first choice but I believe more than ever that, if elected, he would make a fine president.