Governor Romney unsuccessfully ran for President in 2008, losing the GOP nomination to Senator John McCain, who then was promptly crushed in the general election. Romney is again seeking the nomination in 2012, however has been meeting a lot of resistance. Much of the talk for the last year has been Romney’s “inevitability”. He has been touted as the most electable candidate to beat President Obama in November, yet many, including myself, reject the premise of the argument.
First, a little background: Mitt Romney has an extensive and successful business background. He enjoyed a tremendous level of success with Bain Capital, the firm that helped start or expand many well known companies such as Staples and The Sports Authority. Romney’s business acumen helped him earn a significant amount of money, estimated to be in the $250 million range. He took over running the Salt Lake City Olympic Games with great success and he served as the Governor of Massachusetts for four years.
There is no doubt that Governor Romney has been very successful and has a very distinguished resume. I also think it’s fair to say that those of us that do not support him, certainly do not begrudge his accomplishments. With that said, it’s important to point out the many problems with his candidacy which causes many of us conservatives to reject the notion that he is the most electable.
If Governor Romney is the most electable, why is it that he has only won 4 out of 9 primary and caucus elections? Nobody would expect him to win them all, but one would think that he would have fared better if he truly was the best candidate. There are also some interesting tidbits of information that support this.
Romney has, by far, more money that his competitors and has been spending it. When former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich rose to the lead in national polls just before the Iowa caucus, Romney and his Super-PAC spent millions on negative ads, which reversed the trend. Gingrich recovered in South Carolina and beat Romney by well over 10 points, despite another round of millions in Romney’s negative ads. Two weeks later in Florida, Romney beat Gingrich by a slightly larger margin. This was also followed by a landslide of negative ads by Romney and his PAC.
In general, Romney tends to win where voter turnout is down and lose where turnout is up. In Florida, even though he beat Gingrich handily, the county by county analysis shows the same pattern. Gingrich won the counties where turnout was up and Romney won where turnout was down. That’s a very concerning trend when you consider the importance for the GOP in getting as many voters to the polls in November as possible.
Overall, the Romney campaign has been outspending his competition by approximately 3 to 1, and his PAC has been outspending them by about 5 to 1. This may be effective in a primary and may very well enable him to win the nomination, but what will Romney’s strategy be for the general election? He will never be able to outspend President Obama, who will have amassed an estimated war chest close to $1 billion. If Romney is so electable, why does he have to outspend his competitors by such huge margins to win?
Romney used the same strategy in 2008. When he is challenged, instead of overcoming concerns by convincing voters why he is the best candidate, he assails his opponents with a barrage of negative advertising (much of it of questionable accuracy). Both John McCain and former Senator Fred Thompson were on record in 2008 being critical of Romney for these tactics and a lack of honesty in his advertising. When you think about it, he has the same strategy as President Obama. He can’t say “I’m the best candidate because…” so he adopts the tactic of “the other guy sucks”.
It’s also interesting to note that after about six years of running, he has still not been able to break through the 25% or 30% mark in national polls. As of today, Romney is trailing in his home state of Michigan (by double digits in some recent polls). Think about that. Six years, untold millions spent and dozens of prominent endorsements, yet he is still trailing in his home state and three out of four conservatives want someone else. That doesn’t bode well for getting the large turnout the GOP needs in November.
Health Care is arguably going to be the biggest issue if Romney gets the nomination. No matter how much his defenders protest, the reality is that his health care law in Massachusetts was the basis for President Obama’s highly unpopular law. Yes, there are some differences, but the uncomfortable truth is that the differences are only slight. The overwhelming concern for conservatives is not the details, but the general notion of the government, on any level, being involved in health care. Romney will not be able to distinguish himself from President Obama on one of the most important issues to GOP voters. Even more concerning is that he’s had six years and has yet to be able to come up with a compelling answer when asked about it.
Taxes are another big issue where Romney is weak. Most conservatives (and many moderates, independents and even liberals) believe that our tax code is an abomination that is in serious need of a major overhaul. Those of us that have a good grasp on finance and economics understand that our tax code is probably the single, biggest obstacle to economic growth. Romney’s tax plan does nothing more than tinker around the edges. Essentially, his plan lowers the top rate for individuals, eliminates a few deductions, adds in a few new deductions and well, that’s about it. Yes, it lowers taxes some, which is good, but it only moves the shells around a little, which is far from the wholesale reform we need.
Romney’s corporate tax plan is even more timid. He lowers the top tax rate from 35% to 25%, speaks vaguely of the “possibility” of “broadening the base” and pushes for a territorial tax system. The problems here are many, but simply put, his plan is weak and will accomplish little. Once again, lowering taxes is good, but he doesn’t go nearly far enough.
Many don’t seem to understand that it’s not businesses, but consumers that pay corporate taxes. The cost of taxes to any business is factored into their business model in the form of higher prices, lower wages or both. The United States has one of the highest corporate tax rates in the world which does nothing but push business offshore. If we lowered our corporate tax rate to one of the lowest in the world, our country would become a Mecca of job creation. We also would have no need for a territorial tax system because our rates would be lower that most other countries, resulting in businesses not owing any tax on repatriated profits and eliminating the barrier to bringing that money back home. Romney’s plan is, once again, wholly inadequate.
Romney pats himself on the back for balancing the budget as Governor of Massachusetts. However, when you consider that a balanced budget is required by law in the Commonwealth, isn’t that a bit like congratulating yourself for not robbing a bank? Good, yes. Remarkable, no.
He also claims to have done so without raising taxes. That may be technically correct, but it has been well documented that Governor Romney increased fees during his tenure to the tune of about $700 million. To those with an IQ above room temperature, it’s quite clear that government imposed fees are just taxes by another name, so Romney’s claim is disingenuous at best.
Romney’s policy regarding foreign trade (specifically China) is eerily similar to Donald Trump’s. Basically, the policy is to beat up the Chinese about their currency (even though we do essentially the same thing) and then impose tariffs when they don’t comply. Oh, and then file a complaint with the WTO, which has been as effective an organization regarding trade disputes as the United Nations has been with territorial conflicts. This is an asinine policy that would result in causing tremendous damage to our economy, but Romney, like Trump and many others, doesn’t seem to understand foreign trade as much as he claims. People focus on the minimum wage manufacturing jobs that are shifted overseas but ignore the tremendous amount of American exports and the economic benefits of low cost consumer goods. All of this is effectively halted when we impose large tariffs on other nations. Romney’s China policy is worse than wholly inadequate, it’s downright stupid.
I could go on about Romney’s 59 point plan that reads like a mutual fund prospectus, but there’s not much point. The previous examples are fairly representative of Romney’s lack of forethought when it comes to policy. Yes, the plan is very well put together, complete with tons of professional looking charts and diagrams, but this isn’t a business deal. This is our country’s future and requires policy that gets to the root of our problems and solves them in the most effective, constitutional manner. We don’t need a businessman. We need someone that knows where the bodies are buried.
Romney supporters claim that he is conservative. Romney claims that he is conservative. His record doesn’t exactly reflect that contention. When confronted with this fact, defenders respond that he had to govern to the left because he was the Governor of one of the most liberal states in the Union. This may be true, but don’t these people see the concern that Romney will change his positions when it’s politically expedient? When Governor Rick Perry, in an early debate, confronted Romney about having employed an illegal immigrant through a landscaping company, Romney’s response what that he told the company “I’m running for office, for Pete’s sake”. Ding! Ding! Ding! Red flag, anyone?
Romney says that will be take conservative positions on issues and to his credit, has been towing the line consistently. But what happens if the Democrats regain control of the House and Romney is then forced to work with a liberal Congress? Will he swerve left like he did in Massachusetts? It’s hard to say. To paraphrase John McCain in the 2008 primary, “I can’t comment on Governor Romney’s positions because they’re likely to change tomorrow”.
Some pundits have tried to make hay by pointing out that many prominent conservatives who are critical of Romney today, supported him in 2008. These short-sighted pundits apparently fail to understand the concept of “the lesser of two evils”. In 2008, John McCain was the candidate that Romney was favored over, and we know how well that worked out. Compared to McCain, Romney is a conservative. In fact, compared to McCain, Romney is Ronald Reagan. But let’s not forget that comparisons, by definition, are relative.
The fact is this. Governor Romney is not a conservative. In his defense, he is not a liberal either. Nor is he a moderate. Romney is a weather-vane and with the exception of Congressman Ron Paul, he is the weakest candidate to face President Obama in November. Romney’s policies are weak continuations of the status quo, just with a right leaning tendency instead of left. After six years of running, he still can’t articulate a compelling vision for the country. George Soros recently said that he would be fine with either President Obama or Governor Romney, because they are “very similar”. Yes, George Soros said that.
Almost all conservatives would agree that President Obama’s policies are hurting this country, not helping it, and that we need to replace him in November. For this reason, I will certainly support Mitt Romney if he secures the nomination (see “lesser of two evils”), but he is my third choice out of four.
We need a conservative President that will pursue real reforms and roll back the decades of expansion and return the Federal Government to its proper, Constitutionally limited role. Despite the desire of many for an “outsider”, the truth is that the best candidate to accomplish this is someone who understands how Washington works. An “insider” has a much better chance of making meaningful change to our broken system, especially if that candidate has a proven track record of doing so.
Mitt Romney is just simply not the best candidate to do this.