I must confess in 2012 -- almost from the beginning -- I felt inclined to vote for Mitt Romney for president of the United States. His intellect, extraordinary business record, and honorable career in public service convinced me that he was uniquely qualified to serve faithfully in that office. But there was something else: As a moderate hailing from a deeply blue state, I thought he could appeal to centrist Republicans and right-leaning Independents nationwide -- perhaps enough of them to give him a decided edge on Election Day.
Unfortunately, that didn’t happen.
And yet to say that Governor Romney didn’t work hard, campaign vigorously, and run a serious campaign would be untrue. He certainly did. And, if he had been elected, I still think he would have been a superb chief executive. But his devastating and somewhat unexpected loss has forced me to fundamentally reconsider and re-examine what kind of candidate to support in future presidential election cycles. And so, after months of soul-searching, here are three essential qualities I believe the next Republican presidential nominee must possess:
Consistency: One devastating mistake Republicans made during the last election cycle was their refusal -- and unwillingness -- to adequately expose the failures of the president’s health care law. Obamacare is consistently unpopular for many different reasons, of course, but especially because it kills jobs, lowers take-home pay, drives up health care costs, and forces religious believers to violate the core tenets of their faith. But because Mitt Romney had signed a similar (albeit popular) proposal into law in Massachusetts, he was unable to convincingly argue why such an egregious piece of legislation needed to be repealed. This should have been a top GOP priority from the beginning -- and especially after the infamous legislation was ruled constitutional by the Supreme Court of the United States. Bottom line: The GOP should not nominate candidates with significant flaws or failures in their public service records.
Charisma: For all of Mitt’s Romney’s strengths, he was simply unable to relate to the middle and working classes. He was a wealthy and successful businessman (something that should have been an asset, by the way) but instead the left’s unfair misrepresentations and ruthless campaign tactics significantly undermined his chances of winning. His wooden personality and awkward jokes didn’t help, either. In short, Republicans must nominate a dynamic, articulate conservative in 2016 who can speak authentically to voters’ dreams and aspirations -- in other words, a candidate who drives voters to the polls because they support and trust the nominee, not because they oppose the Democratic candidate. This is absolutely essential, and something that was evidently lacking during the last election cycle. Bottom line: Republicans can’t possibly hope to win the presidency in 2016 if the conservative base stays home (as they did in 2012).
Conviction: We need principled candidates rather than so-called “mavericks.” We need leaders who say what they mean and mean what they say; leaders who oppose on principle excessive government spending, high taxes and burdensome regulations -- and have a record to show for it. As many have said before, we already have a Democratic Party in this country. And we certainly don’t need another one. Bottom line: Giving voters a choice -- a real choice -- between the two presidential nominees is the key to taking back the White House in 2016.
In any case, it has often been said that Ronald Reagan is the beau ideal of modern Republican presidential candidates. And perhaps one reason is because he embodied all three of the qualities I’ve just outlined. Indeed, if anything, our collective and continued support for flawed, squishy flip-flopping Republican presidential candidates is a recipe for disaster. I finally see that now.
Let us hope that others will as well.