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Milquetoast Won’t Get It, Mitt

The opinions expressed by columnists are their own and do not necessarily represent the views of

This Tuesday, voters in Florida will have their chance to tell the country which Republican candidate they favor.

The winner will say the people have spoken, thank them for their support and move on. The losers will say they’re moving on to the next primary. The media and DC powerbrokers will hype it all like it matters, but if it goes the way they’re predicting, the way they want, nothing will change.

Given the millions of dollars he’s dumped into the state, both directly and through supportive SuperPACs, and the early voting in Florida, Mitt Romney is expected to win. A victory for him will mean…nothing, really. But it will be presented as a major victory by the Romney camp, the media and – let’s be honest – the silent defenders of the status quo.

Mitt Romney is a great businessman who deserves credit for wise investing and saving the 2002 Winter Olympics, but he is no boat-rocker.

Similarly, Bain Capital didn’t make hundreds of millions of dollars by throwing money around. The firm did its research, studied risks and decided if the potential reward justified the risk.

That’s what you want in an investor, but it is what these times demand in a president?

If things were going great, if the economy was growing by leaps and bounds and good jobs abounded, we would need only a few minor course corrections – and Romney would be perfect for that. But things aren’t going great, we‘re speeding toward an iceberg, and anything short of bold leadership will change only the angle at which we hit the iceberg.

Aside from the Olympics, which were going to happen no matter what, there’s nothing in Mitt Romney’s past or his rhetoric to lead anyone to believe he’d offer bold leadership and take serious risks based upon long-standing, proven conservative principles.

I have nothing against Mitt Romney, I’ve met him twice and both times he seemed like a perfectly nice guy. He’s well-educated, a loving family man and quite successful. All traits to be admired.

And it’s pretty clear he wants to be president, I just don’t know why.

He hasn’t articulated a vision for American that he wants to institute beyond a few boilerplate standards, such as repealing Obamacare, and platitudes unworthy of a front-runner. Yes, he would be better than the current occupant of 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue. Every one of them would be. But is better good enough when the circumstances require more?

This isn’t about who is the most conservative candidate. The question is: Who will bring about the dramatic roll-back of government size, power and spending that’s required to avoid that iceberg? But there’s nothing in Romney’s past, or his current rhetoric, that leads me to believe he’ll do what is necessary to right the ship.

Mitt’s caution is understandable. He has the money and establishment support to outlast his opponents in the primaries if he avoids serious errors. But avoiding errors does not indicate the level of boldness we need now.

Newt Gingrich and Rick Santorum are fighting as if their political lives depend on it – because they do. Gingrich and Santorum spend time with the press whenever possible – in part to try to overcome Romney’s incredible monetary and establishment advantage. Meanwhile, Mitt does scheduled interviews almost exclusively.

In 2008, the campaign of then-Sen. Barack Obama made it nearly impossible for even the friendliest of media outlets to get in an unscheduled or unscripted question. At the same time, Republican nominee John McCain avoided conservative media like it was a hooker with an open lip sore. Only at the end, when desperate times required it, did McCain open himself up to national and local talk radio. It was too little, too late.

Why McCain avoided talking to radio shows with the very audience he needed to motivate, I don’t know. Maybe he thought picking Sarah Palin as vice-president was enough. He’d never been that conservative. He presented himself as a “maverick” progressive Republican, and the media ate it up – until it suited the media’s needs to throw him under the bus.

I see much of that in Romney. And it worries me. When I hear him in 2002 say he’s a moderate, that his views are “progressive,” it worries me. Again, that was 2002, not exactly a lifetime ago.

He says he’s the only electable candidate, but he’s just 1 for 3 in the Republican primaries. And, yes, he’s spent most of his life in the private sector, but that’s only because he has been unable to win most of the races he has entered.

He’d be a much better president than Barack Obama, but would he be the president we need right now?

Of course none of this will matter if Newt Gingrich wins the Florida primary next Tuesday. If that happens, Romney will have no choice but to remove some of his bubble-wrap suit and make himself more accessible. He’ll either move to the right and give more specifics about why he should be president, or show his truly “progressive” colors, which will mean he differs from the current administration only in method.

I like Newt. I’ve warmed to Santorum. Even Ron Paul has his charm (but only on spending issues), and I want to like Mitt. But after years and years of him running for president and being in the public eye, I still know little about him beyond sound bites and platitudes. Electing someone simply because he wants to be president is as foolish as electing someone with no experience and no record simply because he gives a good speech. Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice…

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