Ed Rollins was once Ronald Reagan's political director and now serves as Mike Huckabee's campaign chairman. Last weekend he told a reporter, "The breakup of what was the Reagan coalition – social conservatives, defense conservatives, and anti-tax conservatives – it doesn't mean a whole lot to people anymore." He declared, "it's gone."
Well, I can assure you he's wrong on one point and predict he's wrong on another. This Reagan coalition means a lot to me and to most people I know. Perhaps, Mr. Rollins is suggesting it doesn't mean a lot to him, given that his political clients since the days of Ronald Reagan have included the independent Ross Perot and liberal Republicans like Michael Huffington in Reagan's beloved California and Christine Todd Whitman in New Jersey. Having spent my life around movement conservatives, I can tell you, we still care about uniting these various conservatives into a strong coalition.
Then, I'll predict he's wrong in his epitaph: "it's gone." In fact, I think it will coalesce in the coming five weeks as Republicans select a president and then turn their considerable energies toward defeating their Democratic opponent next fall. But regardless of whether he's right or wrong, I'm disappointed to see Mr. Rollins throw in the towel on such a compelling coalition. It may just be that his current client cannot unite the three legs that make up this conservative stool – but I believe there is a candidate who can.
A year and a half ago, I concluded Governor Mitt Romney was the most qualified person to run for president from either party in my lifetime and decided to support and help him as a volunteer. Mitt Romney has had three undeniably successful careers, heading one of the most successful venture capital and investment management firms in the world, presiding over a profitable and safe Winter Olympic Games just months after the attacks of 9/11, and governing the state of Massachusetts and turning a nearly $3 billion deficit into a nearly $1 billion surplus without raising taxes.
While there have been presidential candidates who may have more business experience, few had ever governed anything. We have also had candidates with more government experience, but none of them has had any business experience. And no other candidate has presided over an Olympic Games, a role that required handling hundreds of millions of dollars, assembling some 23,000 volunteers and mobilizing one of the largest security operations.
As an evangelical Southern Baptist and a social conservative, I like the leadership Governor Romney provided our movement in defending traditional marriage between a man and a woman and in opposing embryonic stem cell research. I believe his values are consistent with mine in every way, whether or not his theology is.
In a heavily Democratic and liberal state, Governor Romney staked out unpopular positions against cloning (having vetoed a bill sent to him by his 85% Democratic legislature) and gay marriage. It was Boston Globe columnist Jeff Jacoby who wrote, "Few mainstream politicians have stepped up to make a principled case in support of that timeless definition [of marriage], and so far, none has done so as cogently as Romney."
As a fiscal conservative I like the fact that Governor Romney understands that the money we send to our state and federal governments is our money, and "not their money," as he told Governor Huckabee in one of the candidate debates. Fiscal and anti-tax conservatives will like his record on not raising taxes and fighting, even against great opposition, to reduce the size of government. He decided on his first day as governor to leave office with a smaller, more efficient state government than when he arrived and managed to do just that.
And as a national defense conservative I like the fact that Governor Romney has supported the President's plan to help Iraq and to give General Petraeus and other military leaders a chance to work their plans and strategies in a complex situation. I like that he understands the threats that radical Islamic jihadists pose to our security, the importance of securing our borders, and the need to equip our men and women in service with the tools they need to succeed on our behalf.
In all three areas, I like the fact that Mitt Romney has a history of surrounding himself with bright, talented, capable, experienced men and woman who can help him make wise decisions. That is what a leader does and he has done it time and time again.
Finally, I like that Mitt Romney has not been endorsed by any particular wing of the conservative spectrum exclusively – he has been endorsed by conservatives of all stripes and categories. Defense conservatives like Representative Pete Hoekstra (MI) are on his team, as are fiscal conservatives like American Conservative Union (ACU) chairman David Keene and leading conservative magazine National Review. Social conservatives like Reverend Lou Sheldon and Bob Jones III, and pro-life leaders and attorneys Jim Bopp, Jr. and Jay Sekulow and others have been supporting Governor Romney for quite some time. In other words, the so-called Reagan coalition appears to be alive and well within the Romney fold right now. It just may prove to be a winning combination.
Mark DeMoss is president of The DeMoss Group, a public relations firm which works primarily with evangelical organizations and causes. He is author of The Little Red Book of Wisdom (Thomas Nelson, 2007) and lives in Atlanta. He endorsed Mitt Romney in September 2006.
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