Friday, October 21, 2011

A Choice Or an Echo

Next year Republicans will be running against one of the weakest presidential candidates in recent memory. They will be running against an administration that does not seem to know what it’s doing, and that manifestly has not solved the nation’s economic problems.

It’s a golden opportunity. If we are to believe the polls, just about any of the current crop of candidates can prevail over Barack Obama.

Despite it all, Republicans are falling back on their default candidate, Mitt Romney, because they seem, above all else, to be afraid to lose.

Wanting to win is not the same as being afraid to lose. A candidate who wants to win wants to govern. He runs on a policy agenda. He wants to set the nation on a new course.

It’s difficult to win an election, or to govern effectively, if the reason for your candidacy is to stop the other guy from governing.

A strong candidate does not play it safe. He offers a choice, not an echo.  

Kimberly Strassel raised these points in her column this morning.

In her words: “The 2012 election is shaping up to be a profound choice. Mr. Obama is making no bones about his vision of higher taxes, wealth redistribution, larger government.

“Mr. Romney has generally espoused the opposing view—smaller government, fewer regulations, opportunity—but only timidly. This hobbles his ability to go head to head with the president, to make the moral and philosophical case for that America. How can Mr. Romney oppose Mr. Obama's plans to raise taxes on higher incomes, dividends and capital gains when the Republican himself diminishes the role of the ‘top 1%’? How can he demonstrate a principled understanding of capital and job creation when latching on to Mr. Obama's own trademark $200,000 income cutoff?”

Strassel astutely notes that Romney, who comes across in debates as the toughest of the tough guys, is timid when it comes to policy.

When, in the course of the last debate, New Gingrich challenged Romney on the $200,000 threshold, he faltered.

In Strassel’s words: “Mr. Romney's non-responsive response included five references to the ‘middle’ class and another admonition that the ’rich’ are ‘doing just fine.’ Mr. Obama can't wait to agree, even as he shames Mr. Romney over his bank account.”

Strasel believes that Romney is afraid of being seen as rich. But, she notes correctly that he earned what he has and should not feel ashamed of it. He should embrace it. Not ostentatiously, but forthrightly. Walking back from his wealth makes him look like a fake.

One thing Mitt Romney doesn’t need is to look like more of a fake.

When you are a fake and a phony, on policy and on person, you are not going to be likeable.

Everyone agrees that Mitt Romney is unlikeable. The judgment reveals Romney’s electoral Achilles heel. You cannot like someone if you do not know who is really is and what he really believes.

Given his propensity to echo the Obama talking points, Strassel suggests, Mitt Romney might not be the man to provide leadership for fundamental tax reform.

Is he the man to lead the march to overturn Obamacare? Is he, a man who worships at the altar of global warmism, the man to roll back the regulatory apparatus that is crushing business activity?

What is Romney going to say when Obama thanks him for Romneycare? What is he going to say when Obama tells him how much he appreciates the input that Romney’s advisors had on crafting his health care reform program?

Today, Mitt Romney has shown himself to be presidential, and to be the best debater. It feels good to send out a debating champion to do battle against someone who is weak on specifics.

So far, the Republican presidential campaign has been mostly debates. Yet, has anyone considered that debates will play a much smaller role in the general election campaign.

Romney has been able to parry the errant thrusts of his debating opponents, but most of them have been wasting their firepower on Rick Perry.

What will happen when candidate Romney has to deal with a billion dollar avalanche of negative attack ads? How will he respond to the clear evidence of his flip-floppery on issues like health care reform, cap-and-trade, and reproductive choice?

Peggy Noonan explained it well: “Mr. Romney's past flip-flopping continues as the challenge that does not go away. A problem for him is that when you go to YouTube and see his old statements, and then watch more recent ones, he always looks the same. When he says in 1994 or 2002 that he's pro-choice on abortion, and when he says in 2008 or today that he's pro-life, he seems to be the same person: an earnest, dark-haired man whose views are serious, well-grounded and equally sincere. Which is disorienting.”

Still, the fundamental question is: How would a President Romney govern? Is Mitt Romney offering a new direction or just more of the same?

Are Republicans squandering a chance to set a new policy agenda because they are so afraid of losing?

But, if not Mitt Romney, then who?

There’s the rub.

1 comment:

Jay Stang said...


Ron paul, that's who. No one else has put out an 11 page coherent plan for balancing the budget that isn't based in SimCity or Pizza deals.