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Why Romney is a good Republican candidate, and could be an excellent President

April 26, 2012

Ok, don’t laugh or look down on me – I was supporting Newt in the primaries. Newt has Big Ideas, and I think our country needs reminding from time to time just how great we can be. God knows the Current Occupant of the White House doesn’t remind us of that. He just tells us how the deck is stacked against the little guy. He’s right about that, if he means the deck that is the Government.

I had no real belief that Michelle Bachmann would ultimately be the nominee. I thought she was a strong conservative, though, and the candidates (especially Mitt Romney) had to defend their philosophies in light of conservatism. I also thought Rick Santorum helped even more to keep conservative values in the discussion.

Mitt Romney is not a strong conservative, but he can hum the tune. He’s sounding more like one now than he did at the start of the primary campaign. I think he had to think about some things more deeply and in different ways than before. It’s a different game than it was in 2008. Running against McCain in a post-Bush world required different strategies than running against Obama in Obama’s America.

Because, frankly, that’s what this election is going to be about: do we want to continue down the unsuccessful path we are on, or do we reverse course and come back to what many people in our country know, deep down, is right. Romney’s task is actually relatively simple. He just needs to stick to basic conservative principles: a strong defense, low taxes, the least possible government interference. In that way he can pretty much run using the basic Reagan plan. While we maybe don’t have the “Russian bear” staring at us from across the pole, we have a lot of folks who don’t like us. Romney doesn’t really have to get into Middle East policy, or North Korea, or China. He will have to address taxes, the deficit, government regulation, immigration,Obamacare (if SCOTUS doesn’t come through and rule against it) and – unfortunately – a host of inconsequential bits that the Obama Administration will try to throw in his way. This happened in the primaries all the time. Do we really have to have a national debate about contraception in graduate schools?  Or the Trevon Martin shooting, which was an unfortunate situation but has been blown up to national proportions for no good reason except to deflect us from the serious issues facing us.

Romney doesn’t need a hundred pages of policy for each little roadblock Axelrod will throw. That’s what probably would have happened to Gingrich, unfortunately. Newt would probably take the bait and would generate a hundred pages of policy. Of course, those don’t work well for 30-second sound bites. Romney can stay simple, stressing American values, conservative principles, and his vision of America as a place of opportunity for all.

Romney has no baggage from the primaries except Romneycare, which people will tire of by September. If Obamacare is declared unconstitutional it will strengthen his argument that this kind of legislation should stay at the state level. If not, it looks as if it will be at least reduced in some way, and that works to his advantage. He also has to answer for the extremely negative ads his people threw against the other Republican candidates, but since Axelrod will be willing to do the same it will be hard to take the high road. We can hope.

Otherwise, he’s still kind of a blank slate. Personally, I think he could just run on the slogan, “I’m not Obama,” but some people demand more of a candidate. I can’t think of an area in which just going the opposite of Obama wouldn’t work to his advantage. This time, we have a real difference in the direction the country should take that will be shown very clearly by the statements of the candidates. Even if Romney plays to the center, Obama is so far left the center will look pretty far right to a lot of folks. That’s good enough. If he can just stick to the basics he’ll be fine.

But would he be a good President? First, he could hardly be a worse one than what we have now. That helped Reagan – Carter had made such a mess of things than the “Reagan Democrats” were more than willing to cross over. But remember, in 1980 the Democratic party wasn’t nearly as far left as it is today. A lot of Democrats, especially southern Democrats, could have easily looked like Republicans today. (In fact, many of them are.)

He’s not a weak man. That’s been demonstrated through his public and private lives. I think he can handle the job of President. Most Presidents don’t have foreign policy experience when they take office, especially those who were governors prior to taking office. Romney handled a Summer Olympics, which, while it’s not like diplomacy with Iran, it’s an international balancing act. He probably knows more about the people of more different countries than most Presidents.

He’s traveled in the right circles enough to put together a good set of advisors. That’s one of the most important things a President can do. Bush #43 had the benefit and hindrance of Bush #41 advisors. Some of them were of the anti-Reagan Republican contingent, who had been waiting to get into power for eight years. 43 was smart enough to choose Dick Cheney as VP. Cheney was a good guide through the maze of Washington politics for a President who really just wanted to do the job and go back to West Texas.

Jimmy Carter had hired a lot of people from Georgia who were clearly in over their heads. Obama was beholden to the Chicago politicians and brought them with him, for good or ill. They fell into Washington politics like ducks in water.

Romney will remind voters of his private sector experience. No matter how much Obama wants to vilify Wall Street (while happily taking their campaign donations), people know their pension plans are tied up in stocks and bonds. As goes Wall Street, so goes America, and folks know that. They know that successes there don’t necessarily translate to success for everyone, but they know that it doesn’t automatically mean the fat cats get fatter and no one else shares in their success, either. That’s projection – it’s a lot more true of Washington than of Wall Street.

Romney really  does have something most other Presidents haven’t had. Successful private sector and public sector experience together is a great help in running the country. I think a lot of people will understand that. They will be right, too. He will take the things he has learned from his primary battles, especially how conservative values resonated with the people, and he will be able to mold himself into a successful candidate – and a successful President.

I recall Alan Alda’s character in “The West Wing.” When he announced his candidacy for President, he was asked, “Are you conservative enough?” He replied, “I’m Republican enough.” True, those are not necessarily the same, but if Governor Romney can take the things he learned from battling Rick Santorum, and Newt Gingrich, and Michelle Bachmann, and even Herman Cain, and blend them into his own philosophy, we may just be all right. Mary Matalin says Romney by five to seven points. I hope she’s right.

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