Despite Newt Gingrich’s lead in nearly every poll, the GOP should get solidly behind Mitt Romney.
Romney’s weaknesses are in full view, and have been for several years; there are no surprises with Mitt. His primary faults are that he seems unprincipled and unable to relate to the “average” American, because of his changing positions and life-long wealth, respectively. But that’s pretty much it—no adulterous relationships, no political scandals and no problem with hyper-partisanship or inexperience. He’s a relatively uncontroversial figure.
What Republicans fear the most—Mitt’s moderate past—will probably be his greatest asset in the general election. Obama ran as The Uniter, but in reality has been one of the most divisive presidents of the last century. Obama’s weakness is Romney’s strength, as he can point to a solid record of bipartisan accomplishments. Indeed, Romney’s record inculcates him from Obama’s only line of attack for 2012: accusing the GOP candidate of Tea Party extremism.
Yet, Mitt can have his cake and eat it too. Tea Party leaders are lining up to give their stamp of approval. Governors Chris Cristie and Nikki Haley, as well as grassroots Tea Party darling Christine O’Donnell have endorsed Romney. All three cited Romney’s executive experience in their endorsements—Haley and Christie further mentioning his ability to get things done. They recognize that winning and doing is more important than thinking and talking.
Romney is a non-polarizing pragmatist executive with private and public sector success and right-leaning principles. In other words: exactly what America needs right now.
Until recently, I really liked Newt Gingrich. He can articulate conservative principles with impressive philosophical and historical eloquence. But Ann Coulter put it well when she characterized Newt’s approach as “speak bombastically and cary a tiny stick”—a play on Teddy Roosevelt’s famous line. Gingrich has all the talk, image and offensiveness of a blazing right-winger, but all the effectiveness of a cash-for-clunkers program. I fear a Gingrich nomination would be like a firework spectacular gone haywire. A multiplicity of DC insiders have confirmed his lack of discipline and focus, in case his marital affairs do not. Newt’s previous two marriages began with romance and ended in utter disaster. His time as Speaker followed the same course. How much does this reflect the man himself?
Debates are only one part of winning an election. As I tweeted a few days ago “Newt’s support is based on America’s assumed eagerness to explore the depths of conservative philosophy. A grave miscalculation.” Let’s face it: the only people who are interested in Newt’s lectures are political junkies and academics. Ben Stein marveled at the Gingrich-Huntsman Foreign Policy debate, which was admittedly the most intellectually stimulating. But people don’t want intellectual stimulation; they want conviction, integrity and know-how. They don’t want big ideas and broad reforms; they want the economy and government to work.
Conviction is a problem for Mitt, but he makes up for it with his enormous success as a father, husband, entrepreneur, executive and Governor. And the one area where he does convey rooted conviction is will be the rallying cry for 2012: America’s greatest era is yet to come.
Romney’s recent book was titled No Apology: The Case for American Greatness. His campaign slogan is “Believe in America.” In the last debate, he stated that Obama believes America is in decline, but he believes a new American century lies ahead. This message will resonate in the general election. Americans are fatigued by economic woes, political polarization and fear that America is becoming fat, lazy and uneducated. Obama has not helped.
The message also fits well with the person Romney should choose as his running mate: Jeb Bush.
Jeb is not George. He is the more conservative, better-spoken, and less Texan younger brother. As the popular former Governor of Florida—a very important swing state—Bush supported Marco Rubio in 2010 (he explains why in this video). Among other things, Bush has been active in the Project for the New American Century, founded by Bill Kristol. This DC policy think tank promotes the message of a bright future of American leadership. But beyond message, Jeb Bush’s experience, personality and policy positions would be able to bring moderates and conservatives together, and he has significant appeal to the hispanic community. No one will doubt Jeb Bush’s conviction and amiability. Making him Romney’s VP would be a geographically, ideologically and stylistically advantageous move.
A Romney/Bush ticket does not need to inspire a new revolution in conservative political philosophy. Thankfully, Barack Obama has already done that. But it would produce an effective rightward policy shift, shaped by a renewed Republican congress and implemented by a pragmatic, proven executive. Few things would be better for the future of conservatism than a successful and popular Republican presidency.
Postscript: Who else would be stellar VP match-ups? Condi Rice for her foreign policy experience, near universal respect and, yes… gender/race. I’ve mostly skipped over Rick Santorum because he has no shot at the presidency. But he’d actually provide a lot of personal likability and base enthusiasm to a Romney campaign.