If you were trying to come up with the most atrocious candidate imaginable to go toe-to-toe with Barack Obama in 2012, you couldn't do much better than Mitt Romney. He was an unpopular moderate governor who lost 2 out of the 3 major elections he's run in and whose signature issue Romneycare is an enormous failure. Moreover, he's so uninspiring that he makes Bob Dole look like Ronald Reagan and that's before you consider his incessant flip-flopping that makes it impossible to really know where he stands on any issue.
Romney's candidacy also runs counter to almost every political trend in the book right now. He's the antithesis of everything the Tea Party stands for -- a moderate establishment-endorsed, principle-free Rockefeller Republican. On the other hand, he's like a bad guy straight out of central casting for the Occupy Wall Street crowd, a conscience-free 1 percenter who makes $10,000 bets and lectures the public about how corporations are people -- while hordes of poor and middle class Americans that he fired trail in his wake telling tales of woe about how Romney made their lives into a living hell.
At one time, I thought both Gingrich and Perry were more electable than Romney. I have, however, reassessed and now believe Gingrich, Perry, Santorum, and even Huntsman, who just left the race, are ALL more electable than Mitt. It's also worth noting that all of those candidates, including Huntsman, are more conservative than Romney. It's mind-boggling to consider the fact that if Romney wins, the conservative base will have chosen the guy behind Romneycare over the man behind the Contract with America, America's premier social conservative, and the best job-creating governor in America, all of whom would also be more electable.
Here we are in what may be, forgive me for the cliché, the most important election of our lifetimes and the GOP may end up choosing a candidate who's one part Charlie Crist and one part John Kerry as our nominee. If that's the case, conservatives should certainly vote for him over Obama. After all, Mitt Romney will undoubtedly often do the wrong thing if he becomes President, but Barack Obama will almost always fail the country. So Romney would definitely be the lesser of two evils.
Yet and still, conservatives will probably have to pay a big price if Romney becomes the nominee. Barring an unforeseen miracle, we're not going to see someone who was a third rate, unpopular moderate governor become a great, popular, and conservative President. The idea that Republicans in Congress will keep Romney in line isn't borne out by anything that has happened in the last decade. During the Bush years, time and time again, conservatives in Congress abandoned their principles to follow Bush's lead. It has been much the same under Obama. Many Democrats were willing to take votes that ended their careers because they felt compelled to stick by Barack. Mitt would have little to fear from the Tea Party or the rest of the conservative base either. After all, his thinking will be, if grassroots conservatives still had any sway in the Republican Party, he wouldn't be the nominee. What are they going to do after he gets the nomination? Vote for Obama? Same goes if he gets elected. No matter how Nixonian Mitt turns out to be, conservatives will still view our own Massachusetts version of Arnold Schwarzenegger as preferable to whatever socialist the Democrats run against him in 2016.
However, we cannot forget that to the majority of the American people, a Republican president IS the conservative movement. His successes are its successes, his failures are its failures, and his policies are its policies. So, if the conservative movement pricks its collective finger and signs on with Mitt Romney, it should be aware of what it’s signing on for.
1) Mitt Romney is the bailout king of American politics: Just about the only thing that the Tea Partiers and Occupy Wall Street agree on is that they really hated the bailouts. Yet, Mitt Romney is the bailout king of American politics. You could fairly argue that he took a bailout when he was at Bain, he supported TARP, he's now comparing what he did at Bain to what Obama did at GM and Chrysler, and he has noted in a debate that he's open to future bailouts. This isn't even the "compassionate conservatism" that the base detested under Bush; it’s "moderate corporatism." Is that what conservatives will have to defend if Mitt Romney is the nominee? Are we supposed to be rallying behind bailouts now?
2) He's not a flip-flopper, we swear: John Kerry's campaign in 2004 was hurt badly by the charge that he was a flip-flopper. Mitt Romney is also a flip-flopper -- a far worse one than Kerry ever was. Even amongst conservatives, saying this about Romney is about as controversial as saying that the sun is hot, water is wet, or Barack Obama is a terrible President. Yet, Mitt Romney's line is that "I've been as consistent as human beings can be." Are conservatives going to have to argue that a guy whose positions are so liquid that you really don't know where he stands on anything is actually consistent? It's ludicrous, it’s patently untrue, and conservatives know it.
3) Smearing capitalism to help Mitt Romney: I support capitalism because I believe it creates more prosperity, for more people, than any other system mankind has ever come up with. That doesn't mean capitalism is flawless. After all, if capitalism had no flaws, socialism wouldn't exist. What socialists don't get is that capitalism, even with its flaws, is the best, most efficient, most effective way to help everyone -- including the poorest Americans.
On the other hand, what some conservatives seem to be starting to lose sight of in their efforts to defend Mitt Romney is that not everything that creates a profit is moral, good, admirable, or even politically palatable. We'd never run a candidate who got rich running a chain of strip clubs, closing all his factories and sending the jobs to China, or by being the world's most effective spammer. We can all see the issues there.
Along similar lines, it's not particularly admirable to buy a company, load it up with debt, run it into the ground, and walk away with an enormous profit while the business goes under and hundreds of poor and middle class Americans lose their jobs – which is a very fair description of some of the deals Mitt made at the end of his tenure at Bain. Listening to conservatives talk about what a glorious thing it is when regular Americans get fired is more than a little bit disconcerting, particularly since when it was Bain's turn to face that same kind of "creative destruction," it had millions of dollars in debt forgiven by the FDIC in what could fairly be termed a bailout. The same goes for Bain making more than 15 million dollars on GS Technologies when "a federal government insurance agency had to pony up $44 million to bail out the company’s underfunded pension plan." That's not a liberal argument, it’s a prime example of the sort of "capitalism on the way up and socialism on the way down" that most Americans, including Tea Partiers, hated about TARP. Now, we're going to be asked to defend that as one of the wonders of the free enterprise system because Mitt Romney may be the nominee?
4) Read Mitt's lips: He wants a VAT: Like Barack Obama, Mitt Romney is open to the same sort of value added tax that has helped drive the tax rates of Western European nations into the stratosphere.
Since Mr. Romney mentioned a consumption tax, would he rule out a value-added tax?
He says he doesn’t “like the idea” of layering a VAT onto the current income tax system. But he adds that, philosophically speaking, a VAT might work as a replacement for some part of the tax code, “particularly at the corporate level,” as Paul Ryan proposed several years ago. What he doesn’t do is rule a VAT out.
Amid such generalities, it’s hard not to conclude that the candidate is trying to avoid offering any details that might become a political target. And he all but admits as much. “I happen to also recognize,” he says, “that if you go out with a tax proposal which conforms to your philosophy but it hasn’t been thoroughly analyzed, vetted, put through models and calculated in detail, that you’re gonna get hit by the demagogues in the general election.”
You could make a case for a VAT as a REPLACEMENT for the income tax, but as an ADDITION to the current tax code, it would be a disaster that would lead to ever-increasing tax rates. If there's one thing that the Republican Party has stood for over the last few years, it has been low taxes. So, what happens when Mitt Romney introduces a VAT tax, just like the one Barack Obama wants to implement? How did that work out for George H. W. Bush? How do you like the idea of seeing Republicans implement a tool that will allow the Left to simultaneously drive our taxes into the stratosphere and then turn around and blame businesses because the price of all their products are going up?
5) Why support Romneycare and oppose Obamacare? Obamacare is nothing but Romneycare on a larger scale. "Even Mitt’s consultants on Romneycare, like Jonathan Gruber, have admitted that Obamacare is just Romneycare writ large,"
The truth is that the Affordable Care Act is essentially based on what we accomplished in Massachusetts. It’s the same basic structure applied nationally.
So, if Mitt's the nominee, we go into the election with a nominee who fundamentally agrees with all the principles behind Obamacare and is opposing it (Ehr...we hope) for the sake of politics. Are we going to have to pretend that Romneycare is a success or worse, that Mitt Romney really has some big ideological problem with a healthcare plan that's probably almost identical to what he would have come up with if he'd been President?
This is not an academic discussion. Mitt Romney can still be stopped in South Carolina and "(b)etween now and March 3rd, the last event before Super Tuesday, only 15.20% of all delegates to the Republican National Convention will be selected and the vast majority will be proportional." Mitt Romney is the least conservative candidate remaining in the field and isn't particularly electable either. If you don't want to spend the better part of the next year trying to drag this sad sack of Mitt across the finish line so he can disappoint us for the next four years, then stand up, speak out, and stop letting the mainstream media and a bunch of Beltway conservatives tell you that the race has to be over with just 1.8% of the delegates needed for a victory awarded. The Tea Party didn't rise up, fight Barack Obama, and help the GOP have its best year in half a century just to see the Republican Party ideologically slide all the way back to the pre-Reagan years as a reward. If the establishment manages to grease the wheels for Mitt to such a degree that it turns out he's unstoppable, then it's still better to go down brawling instead of supporting a candidate you know is a mediocrity because you think he's "probably going to win the nomination." Given the type of man he is, whether Mitt wins or loses, you're unlikely to look back at fighting like hell to get another nominee with anything other than pride.