A few months ago, I wrote the following about candidate Romney in a debate analysis: “I’m just… not yet convinced that he’s anything more than a slick-talking empty suit. Governor Romney, prove to me that you’re more than that.”
Early in the primary race, with a huge field of candidates coming and going on a weekly basis, it was hard to look too closely at any of them. Attention was, by necessity, unfocused. Any day could bring someone new to the race, a candidacy-shattering “oops” in a debate, or some new headline about the antics of Donald Trump. Many were holding out hope and following popular conservatives that never ended up entering. And debates had so many people on stage, even frontrunners only got a scant few minutes of total speaking time.
At that time, I felt that Governor Romney came across as simply a politician, albeit one that tended to say things I agreed with. As he emerged as the leader, I hoped desperately to see him demonstrate that he was more than a presidential head of hair and well-rehearsed talking points. I wanted to see his knowledge and understanding of the economy put to the test. I wanted to see him respond to the kind of unfair attacks that would occur in a general election. I wanted to see passion and vision–because a President that can lead us out of our current mess will need a focused vision of where to go, and passion enough to sell it to the American public.
Over the past month, the smaller field has allowed greater focus and a deeper message to be communicated. As sound bites have become interviews and debates have become, well, actual debates, we’ve seen him demonstrate a deep, thorough, and immediate understanding of the American economy. We’ve seen that he doesn’t get riled up easily, even when pushed, unlike his main competition. Though some see Newt’s fire-and-brimstone attacks on, oh, everyone around him, as a huge selling point, it would only serve to turn off the huge numbers of voters that pay more attention to personality than policy. Whereas Romney’s cool, calculating approach to apparently every damn thing he does in his life is exactly what we need to keep from scaring away the independents that will–I’m sorry, it’s just math–WILL decide this election, because they decide every election.
So this is why I think he’ll make a great President. The one topic that gets Romney fired up is business itself. He has real passion when he starts talking about the free market and how business provides a path out of poverty for us all, and frankly, that should be a beautiful thing to all of us, after three years of a President who speaks with pride about keeping his boot on the neck of industries. We desperately need a President who can explain to the public why business is good for us, why wealth and profit are healthy and good. We need a President who demonstrates a passion for and history of promoting business. We need a President with a demonstrated ability to save what can be saved, eliminate what needs to be eliminated, and turn failures into successes. Our biggest problems today aren’t the debate over legalizing pot or gay marriage. We’re not going to get anywhere trying to reinstate the gold standard. Our priorities ought to be readily apparent. Our economy is a mess and our government is broke. We need a turnaround artist. This is exactly what Mitt Romney has specialized in.
The rest of the remaining field has impressed me in various ways. Up until the last few weeks, I was strongly favoring Newt. I’ve always been impressed by his intellect and historical perspective, and I can be swayed by intelligent debate. I’ll admit, I do still love the idea of a Newt/Obama debate. His conservative history is checkered, but so is everyone else’s, and I found it hard to argue with his list of accomplishments. But the last month has reminded me of why he quickly lost the support of his own party in the 90s, and shown that while he’s a heavy hitter, he’s so unfocused that he misses far more often than he connects. His attacks on Romney’s record with Bain Capital showed that he either completely misunderstands capitalism, or is willing to say things he knows are patently untrue as long as he thinks he can personally gain from doing so. His long history of conservative crusades and his more recent robo-calls falsely claiming that Romney forced elderly Holocaust survivors to eat non-Kosher food make the latter seem more likely, but either way, these attacks show that he would be a completely inappropriate choice to communicate a conservative, pro-business message to America.
Santorum has virtually reinvented himself in the last few weeks, and I like the new Rick. In the past, he’s been petulant and condescending. Now, he’s smiling, confident, and he’s almost completely lost his disdainful smirk. However, his message is still almost exclusively focused on social issues, and frankly, it’s the economy, stupid. When it comes to the social issues, I disagree with him as often as I agree. He’s uncompromising, and only other uncompromising people actually respect that–and few Americans are truly uncompromising. He cannot win in a general election, and I therefore cannot support him.
Paul has also impressed me recently, which is refreshing. I don’t believe for a minute that he’s backed off any of his foreign policy ideas (he’s never changed his mind on anything in his life, why start now?), but he’s stopped really talking about them, and focused on the small-government, economic liberty message that all conservatives can get behind. I’m thrilled that he’s successfully brought that message to the public–Republicans coast to coast are talking about the Austrian school and auditing the Fed. It’s a wonderful thing. I also think his idea that Iran is no threat is insane and would lead to disastrous policy decisions along the lines of Neville Chamberlain in the 30s, and I’m also quite uncomfortable with a President that winks and nudges 9/11 truthers to keep a lock on the pro-grassy knoll voters. That said, I hope he keeps fighting so strongly for what he believes in, because he has personally shifted the public discourse in amazing ways.
Romney’s record is not without blemish. Nobody’s is. Romneycare was a bad idea. Newt supported it, along with cap and trade. Santorum voted against right-to-work laws, and his social views scare a lot of people off. Paul, well, I’ve already gone there. But let’s not let the perfect be the enemy of the good. Let’s remember that our nominee will be up against a candidate with a deeply flawed record as well: lawsuits preventing Boeing from hiring thousands, raids against Gibson guitar factories, blocking the Keystone pipeline, not to mention the regulatory messes of Obamacare and Dodd-Frank, and constant attacks on anyone that has managed to do too well for themselves and employ too many people. We have an anti-business, anti-success President, and we need a pro-business, pro-success candidate to show the country the deepest differences between conservatives and liberals.
For that, I will happily and enthusiastically support and vote for Mitt Romney.