I understand the tendency of conservatives to base their support on who can win in November. It makes perfect sense. Conservatives are obviously not happy with the direction the country has taken. We completely disagree with most of the President’s policies (a position backed up by the President’s record over the last three years) and frankly, we’re scared to death of what he’ll try to do in a second term when he isn’t restrained by having to run again. The problem is that the “electability” strategy is a losing strategy.
The General Election in November will not be won by offering up a milquetoast candidate who “appeals to independents”, or to be more accurate, “doesn’t offend anyone”. The election will be won in two areas, independents and turnout. Democrats will vote Democrat and Republicans will vote Republican, so the swing vote is in the middle. The conventional logic is that we need a more moderate candidate to appeal to that demographic, but once again, that’s a fatally flawed position. Pandering to the middle is not going to get it done. You don’t win by playing the game of your opponent. To win, you need to be the one setting the agenda, not following the other guy’s.
Conservatives need to offer a clear distinction to voters. We can’t go into the general saying “don’t vote for the status-quo left, vote for the status-quo right”. There has to be a stark contrast between what Washington has become and what it should and can be. That requires vision. That requires bold (and sometimes crazy) ideas. That requires real, pragmatic solutions and the persuasive ability to get them accomplished. We will only win by giving voters a clear choice. This will sway independents and energize the base, increasing turnout. Giving voters a dramatically different option will hit both of the areas we need to win.
Mitt Romney is not that option. I’ve written before about his many problems (The Problem With Mitt Romney) so I won’t go into detail, but I truly believe that if Romney is our nominee, we will get slaughtered in November. In short, he’s nothing but a phony, uninspiring, political weathervane. His business experience is great, but we’re not hiring him to turn a flailing company around. We have serious problems in Washington and we need someone who knows how to fix it. By his own admission, Romney’s an outsider. How is someone who’s never worked in DC and doesn’t understand it’s dynamics going to fix it?
This will not win independents and will not boost voter turnout. No stronger evidence exists to support this than the general “not Romney” feeling that has persisted and the pattern that has developed in the primaries. Romney tends to win where turnout is down and lose where turnout is up. In Florida, Romney spent almost $20 million trashing Newt Gingrich (outspending him by 5 to 1) and won by a 14% margin. On a county by county basis, Newt won almost every county where turnout was up and Romney won where turnout was down. He won’t be able to outspend the President and if he only wins where turnout is down, he can’t win.
Rick Santorum is also not this option. Santorum got a big boost in Iowa and I give him credit for persistence, but let’s be honest. He was the beneficiary of Newt Gingrich getting sucker-punched by Mitt Romney. In December, Newt had shot past Romney by a significant margin in the national polls, while Santorum was completely out of contention at around 2%. Romney mobilized his attack machine (the same one he used in 2008) and spent millions to tear Gingrich apart. It was effective. Much of Newt’s support panicked and jumped ship to the next “most viable” option, which was Santorum.
Santorum tries to paint himself as a leader, but the truth is that while in Congress, he was much more of a follower. He did participate in many of the reforms during his tenure, but it’s important to note that the most significant ones he takes credit for were spearheaded by Newt Gingrich. Santorum was just part of the team that helped get it done. (It’s also interesting to note that many of the popular buzzwords and phrases Santorum has been using lately were taken from Newt Gingrich.) There’s also a lot of information surfacing that he isn’t nearly as conservative or honest as he claims. Much of this is coming out now in part because he wasn’t vetted very thoroughly when the “Iowa Panic” caused much of Gingrich’s support to move to Santorum.
Santorum’s social positions are problematic. Not because they are unpopular with average Americans, but because conservatives ultimately don’t vote based on social issues, they vote based economic and security issues. Santorum’s economic policy, like Romney’s, is weak. He wants to eliminate corporate taxes, but just for manufacturers in an effort to boost that sector. Once again, more of the same. I’m all for lowering corporate taxes, but it should be a low, flat tax with no deductions (like Newt’s Plan). Santorum’s plan is trying to take us back to yesterday instead of preparing us for tomorrow. This is not visionary, but rather, the exact lack of vision that will keep us in the same rut.
Now, I don’t want to offend Ron Paul supporter by leaving him out, so I’ll offend them by telling the truth. The truth is that Ron Paul is far too idealistic and ineffective to ever be President. He is definitely principled and consistent, but his ideas are not practical and he has proven that he doesn’t have the ability to persuade others to support them.
Domestically, he would close down five Cabinet Departments. While I agree with him in principle, the reality is that you can’t just flip a switch. These departments are completely unnecessary, but they do provide some functions and more critically, funding to the States. Just shutting them down as Ron Paul has indicated would blow massive holes in already tenuous State budgets.
His foreign policy is a disaster waiting to happen because it would only work if the rest of the world plays by the same rules, which they don’t and never will. His Leadership skills are woefully lacking. As a member of Congress, Ron Paul has sponsored over 620 pieces of legislation, yet in 25 years, only ONE has been signed into law (and it was inconsequential). How exactly would he be able to implement his philosophy as President when he can’t as a member of Congress?
There’s only one candidate in the field that can accomplish what we need to and that is Newt Gingrich. Does he have some baggage? Yes, but unlike most, he has freely admitted his past mistakes, asked for forgiveness and tried to be a better man for it (and let’s not forget that most of the criticisms levied against him were either outright falsehoods or blown way out of proportion). Are you perfect? Have you never made a mistake or done something that you regretted? I didn’t think so.
Newt Gingrich is the only candidate with a record of successfully reforming Washington. He is the only candidate with the vision and intelligence to look at problems from a different perspective. He is the only candidate whose goal is to find real solutions that are a departure from the status-quo and he is the only candidate that can articulate his ideas in a way that everyone can understand.
Gingrich doesn’t give speeches full of of hollow platitudes like the other candidates. He communicates his thoughts and ideas in a down to earth fashion that makes his listeners feel as though they are having a one on one conversation. His debating skills are far beyond that of the other candidates and though the election won’t be won solely on debate performances, it can certainly be lost there. Romney, Santorum and Paul will all give us Nixonesque moments in a debate with the President. Gingrich, by contrast, would school the President in spectacular fashion which, let’s not forget, is what catapulted him to a significant lead in the national polls only a few months ago.
Most importantly, Newt Gingrich would make the best President. His intelligence, experience and leadership skills are far beyond that of anyone else in the race. These are the qualities that we need to be concerned with, not the superficial crap or who we think would give us the “best chance” of winning. We can’t settle for less than what we need because it’s easier. If we truly want to win, in every respect, then we have to go for the brass ring, not settle for McCain 2.0.
The following videos are excerpts from Newt Gingrich’s keynote address to the Wake County, NC Republican Party on March 24, 2011. Combined, they are little less that a half hour in length and well worth the watch. Please watch (even if you are a Romney, Santorum or Paul supporter) and share with your friends (especially if you are a Romney, Santorum or Paul supporter)!
You see what I mean?