April 9, 2009

Assessing GOP 2012 - Romney

The fifth in a continuing series of reviews of leading candidates for the 2012 GOP Presidential nomination, today looking at former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney.

Other analysis -
Mark Sanford
Bobby Jindal
Sarah Palin
Mike Huckabee

Mitt Romney ran for the GOP nomination in 2008, and while having served as a Governor, is also widely known for his efforts associated with the Salt Lake City 2002 Winter Olympic Games.

Experience: Romney served a single term as Governor of Massachusetts from 2003 through 2007. While that governmental experience is 4 years, and would be relatively thin compare to even Bobby Jindal by 2012, it's not the only experience Romney would bring to the table in the 2012 election cycle. Romney can also boast two stints at Bain and Company, the second of which he is credited as having saved the ailing firm from bankruptcy. He performed a similar feat and is credited with turning around the 2002 Winter Olympics in Salt Lake City.

Such business-related experience is an important asset in financially unstable times and would be a strong suit were an election to be held today. Unfortunately for Romney the election is still over 3 years away. What the economic landscape will look like then is anyone's guess. It could either have calmed down from a recessionary and/or inflationary period or it could be outright chaos due to Obama's misguided road map. That puts the value of Romney's business acumen in uncertain territory in terms of it's electoral importance. What it does not change is the amount of experience Romney would bring to the table.

Grade: C-. Romney has some business-related skills that he will be able to parley into an offset for his relatively thin public service record. His challenge will be to argue that it counts for as much or more than service in Congress or a Governor's mansion.

Likability/Electability: Mitt Romney's popularity is a bit of a tricky thing to pin down. One the one hand, he won the CPAC straw poll in late February, beating out a number of other mentionables with a fairly strong showing. On the other hand, the convention was over-represented in the youth segment. Furthermore, much of it could have been name recognition associated with the 2008 primaries, although Mike Huckabee should have seen a bigger bounce as well. More likely the popularity had to do with his image of business sensibility, given the economic climate the country is currently facing.

An issue that came up in 2008 was Romney's religion - Mormonism. Will Christian conservatives be comfortable nominating or voting for a Mormon? That's hard to say for certain, but it may have a negative effect on Romney's electability. The question is - will it be a large effect? My guess is the impact will be small, but that's no guarantee.

One intangible that maybe is something that jumps out to me personally because I didn't see too much of it in the 2008 campaign, is that Romney seems almost too slick, too buttoned-down and too camera-ready. He came across to me in 2008 as potentially phony. If he believed his campaign rhetoric, it was belied by his car-salesman veneer.

The other intangible associated with Mitt Romney is that during the 2008 campaign he apparently came across to other candidates as not too likable. That's something that will be brought up in the 2012 run and may harm his chances.

Grade: D. Romney has the potential to become a more attenuated to the voting public and earn himself a B-, but in order to do so, he almost needs to find a denim/BBQ/hunting jacket moment that plays well. And it had better be believable, otherwise he has the potential to go as far down as an F. More likely though, by 2012 he will have managed to pull off a C-something.

Foreign Affairs: Mitt Romney has a record of comments on foreign relations if not a voting record. He has stated that in Russia, Putin is a troubling leader and an authoritarian (correct), he has said Cuba needs to be freed and that Hugo Chavez is a threat (good). He has argued that Muslims who are moderates should be engaged, and that to defeat jihadists America needs Arab allies (okay). He also sees America's position as a superpower as being under threat unless course changes are made (2008). The last point is one that really is an eternal vigilance type of point. If you become complacent, you risk losing your status. I'm not sure if Romney sees it that way or he sees it in the context of the current world situation. In either case, he sees a need for changes, and in a more positive way than President Obama.

With nothing more than rhetoric required from Romney in most cases it's easy to say the right things. In his favor though, he did what he could to blocked services for Iran’s Khatami speech at Harvard in 2006.

Grade: A-. With a more substantive voting record he could have earned an A, but his position did not afford him that opportunity.

Economy: On the economy, Romney's business background, regardless of it's implications for or against his electability, gives him a good perspective on what is needed. Other politicians often have limited exposure to the business world and therefore often come up with ideas that are anti-business. Romney's inevitable pro-business stances certainly would help the country economically. Businesses are the engine of American wealth production. Romney seems to understand that. He understands that wealth is not produced by consultants but by production, and is anti-outsourcing.

On free trade, Romney has a businessman's eye. He sees the emergence of China as an opportunity, not just a threat. In conjunction with that he sees the role of government very clearly - the government must re-negotiate trade deals with the likes of China to ensure that American businesses are granted a level playing field. But he would leave the businesses to manage their own trade specifics.

On job creation he believes that no industry should be given up on. He argued during the 2008 primaries that the failing auto sector in Michigan could be turned around. He created what he referred to as a slow job growth track in Massachusetts, with some success.

On taxes Romney supported the Bush tax cuts and other tax reductions as well. Tax cuts most typically are revenue-positive when you are on the wrong side of the Laffer Curve, and are certainly pro-economy. Romney's position has often been towards user-fees or paygo-based government revenue generation. From a fairness perspective it would seem to be a reasonably equitable way to generate government revenue. You use schools, you pay. You use roads you pay. You don't use them, why should your taxes be used for them? It's a little bit anti promote-the-general-welfare, but only inasmuch as if certain areas of the economy became underfunded as a result, some sort of balancing mechanism would be needed.

On welfare reform, Romney believes in creating jobs, not dependence. On Health Care, he at least has an alternative to Medicare and Medicaid and wants to fix them along with Social Security.

As per most GOP candidates, he favors energy independence.

Grade: A. Mitt Romney has a pretty solid handle on economic matters. If he were not a nominee, I'd certainly be happy to see him as an economic advisor to the President; perhaps as Secretary of Commerce or Treasury. The only question with Romney would be the flip-flop potential and whether his economic conservatism is a fair-weather one.

Military: Mitt Romney argued in 2007, that America should strengthen the military by 100,000 personnel. The big liberal knock on Romney has been his sons not serving in the military. That's a red herring. The military is voluntary. What matters is his position on the strength of the military.

Grade: B+. Again, this is just rhetoric at this point because Romney has not had an opportunity to vote for or against his convictions.

National/Border Security: As noted in the video above, Mitt Romney has a firm grasp on the terrorism issue and would use both diplomatic means and a beefed-up military to confront Jihadists. Where things get tricky for Romney, and perhaps this is his most glaring weakness is that while he professed to be anti-amnesty of illegal aliens in 2008, he clearly flip-flopped on the issue. It comes down to a matter of trusting Romney's new stance versus his old stance.

Grade: C-. Romney needs to prove himself more trustworthy on the issue before 2012 or it could be a hole in his candidacy. If he fails to do so, his mark will fall into the D range, but on the upside he can probably only go as high as a C+, because the flip-flop is there.

Social Issues: Mitt Romney supposedly is pro-life, but weak on 2nd Ammendment rights. He supports the NRA but professes to not always agree with them. It's another area where the flip-flop could hurt his chances. He supports harsher penalties for drug crimes, and crimes in general. He's in favor of the one man - one woman marriage definition.

The biggest knock on Romney's social positions is how opportunistic they seem. His flip-flops seem to be a matter of political expedience.

Grade: C-. There's a gap between the rhetoric of today and of earlier years that makes a higher score impossible.

Conservatism: Romney came in at #8 on Human Events’ list of Top Ten RINOs in 2005. Ouch. There's reason to believe that. There's reason to believe he's changed his tune on many issues, and yet there's reasons to believe his new found conservatism is a politically motivated - being outside of Massachusetts is he being himself or playing to a different audience?

Proving his conservatism is real will be Romney's biggest challenge between now and 2012, and most likely the success of his candidacy depends on proving just that.

Grade: Incomplete.

Overall: Overall Romney has some big and relevant pluses on economics and his desire for a strong military. But his flip flops are a legitimate concern for conservatives and some of his soft spots on abortion, gun control, and amnesty really hurt his chances.

Grade: C

No comments:

Post a Comment

Disagreement is always welcome. Please remain civil. Vulgar or disrespectful comments towards anyone will be removed.

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...

Share This