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Romney is right for Republicans

Published: October 28, 2011
Section: Opinions


At this point, one year before Election Day, it seems likely that former governor Mitt Romney will become the Republican presidential nominee—assuming that all current trends persist.

Romney has a lot going for him, including the fact that he is a very capable and polished debater; possesses a firm and nuanced grasp of domestic, economic and foreign policy; and is an articulate speaker and skilled communicator. He is also running a very well-organized and professional campaign; he is a prodigious fundraiser and has a wide range of experience and accomplishments both in the public and private sector.

Furthermore, the quality of his primary opponents is lacking. Herman Cain is a political neophyte who has never served in public office, seems completely ignorant about foreign affairs and has a major propensity for gaffes. Furthermore, the 9-9-9 plan, which essentially is Cain’s campaign, can be criticized from the left for being regressive, from the center for not raising enough revenue and, finally, from the right for giving Congress a whole new revenue stream with which to play.

Romney’s other main rival, Governor Rick Perry, is also facing a number of problems. At recent debates, Perry has been alternately unfocused, incoherent, distracted and at times downright nasty—especially during his attempt to smear Romney for hiring an illegal immigrant. Also, like Cain, Perry lacks knowledge of international issues and does not seem to know a lot about things not directly related to Texas.

These are considerable advantages. Romney, however, still has trouble rising above approximately 25 percent in the polls and he lacks a passionate support base. Perhaps he should consider taking the following steps.

First, lay out your core, underlying principles. Observers of the 2012 race are understandably skeptical about what Romney truly believes—other than the fact that he wants to become president. This is a man, after all, who once attempted to run to the left of the late and very liberal Ted Kennedy and is now positioning himself to the right of Rick Perry, one of the most conservative governors in the country, on issues like immigration. With this turn rightward has come a great deal of shifting on a range of important social and economic issues. Romney should try combating this image of inconsistency by clearly stating what his core political philosophy is and how it has guided him in public life.

Second, be bolder in your policy proposals. The Republican primary electorate, in particular, is looking for a candidate who can capture the populist spirit of the Tea Party movement and present a clear, concrete and bold alternative to President Obama. In contrast, some of Romney’s positions, such as on entitlements and tax reform, seem timid. Romney should try to negate the impression that he stands for the status quo.

And third, don’t pander to interest groups at the expense of the rest of the population. For example, to curry favor with Iowa farmers, Romney supports ethanol subsidies that increase food prices and distort international trade. Or, in line with union demands and increasing anti-China sentiment, he seeks to impose tariffs and duties on imported goods from China. While China’s atrocious human rights record, dramatic military buildup and aggressive foreign policy are causes for immense concern, starting a trade war with one of our largest creditors and economic partners, particularly in a recession, is still not a very good idea.

Nonetheless, Romney is in fact a strong candidate, and has a very good shot at being the next Republican nominee, barring some unforeseen development. It will be interesting to see what lies ahead for him and the rest of the Republican field in the coming months.