Recent polls in two crucial primary states--Iowa and New Hampshire--show that Mitt Romney has leapfrogged John McCain and Rudy Giuliani to claim momentum in the race for the Republican nomination for president.
The latest Des Moines Register poll shows Romney with 30 percent support, a 12-point lead over his nearest competitor in Iowa, McCain. Even better, Romney's internal polling has him running 17 points ahead of the competition in the Hawkeye State. A Zogby poll of New Hampshire voters offers similar results: Romney leads with 35 percent while McCain and Giuliani tie for second with 19 percent.
This surge of support for Romney comes as no surprise to those of us supporting the former Governor of Massachusetts. In fact, I predicted back in October that once voters got to know Romney they would like him very much. And so they do. The question now is, why?
I believe voters are attracted to Romney because of his three-part vision for America, one that seeks to build and maintain a strong national defense, a strong economy, and strong families.
Romney believes that peace comes through strength. In a recent Foreign Affairs article he called for adding 100,000 troops to our armed forces and for sizeable investments in military equipment, capabilities, and preparedness. To support these goals, Romney has said the next president should commit at least four percent of gross domestic product to national defense.
Romney has an adroit understanding of the threat posed by radical Islam. He recognizes that Iraq is but a part of a larger battle against Islamists that includes Afghanistan, Iran, Somalia and many other places. "Jihad is the greatest threat that faces humanity," Romney said in a speech earlier this year. "It cannot be appeased. It can only be defeated."
Like Winston Churchill with Nazism and Ronald Reagan with Communism, our next president must understand and confront radical Islam. Romney has proven that he has the moral clarity to do so. In 2006, for example, Romney refused to provide a state security detail for Mohammed Khatami when the former Iranian president delivered a speech at Harvard. "There are people [in Massachusetts] who have suffered from terrorism, and taking even a dollar of their money to support a terrorist is unacceptable," Romney told the Boston Globe at the time.
Romney believes a strong economy depends on free people and free markets. He supports low tax rates, minimal government regulation, free trade, and policies that encourage savings and investment. In Massachusetts, Romney overcame a $3 billion budget deficit without raising taxes; instead, he reduced waste and greatly improved the efficiency of state government. When Romney left office, Massachusetts had fewer government employees than when he arrived. That's no small achievement in an overwhelmingly liberal state.
To renew or not to renew the Bush tax cuts will be one of the next president's most significant economic decisions. Romney has said he would renew the cuts when they expire in 2011, believing that failing to do so would "result in a massive tax hike" that would "hurt our economy, slow down job growth, and reduce the income levels of people across the country."
More than any other candidate, Romney understands the economic threat posed by the rise of China. On the campaign trail, Romney often notes that China graduates five times as many engineers and nearly as many more PhDs in math and science than we do in the United States. In response, Romney has suggested several reforms to our education system—performance-based pay for teachers, increased parental involvement, effective standardized testing, school choice, and special programs for gifted students. This is vision: identifying a problem and offering solutions that position Americans to compete against a talented rival in tomorrow’s marketplace.
Romney believes America’s strength comes from its families. He understands that in order to have a strong national defense and a strong economy, a society must first have strong families. Family life teaches people about sacrifice, loyalty, and teamwork. It reminds us that we are part of something much bigger than ourselves. Naturally, this same ethos stitches together people of all races and religions to form the United States.
Married to his high school sweetheart, Romney has five sons and 10 grandchildren. So he knows a little something about sacrifice, loyalty, and teamwork. This alone, obviously, does not qualify him to be president. But the fact that he has remained faithful to his wife and children for over 38 years does tell me that he is a man of character who keeps his commitments.
If Romney’s platform sounds familiar, it’s because it is. The same “three-legged stool” of policy positions has served America—and conservatism—well for over 25 years by uniting military, economic and social conservatives. On their own, each group lacks a comprehensive vision for America—or the clout to achieve political victory. Together they have propelled Ronald Reagan, George H.W. Bush, and George W. Bush into the White House. Now they stand ready to do the same for Mitt Romney.