Given the increasingly likelihood that Romney is on his way to the GOP nomination, and noting the continued resistance to the idea both in comments here on Power Line and out in the general world (despite John’s endorsement!), I’ll start a new series evaluating how to think about whether he’ll make a good president, or what is required of him to be a good president. Now, it’s a pretty low bar being a better president than Obama, which is why I’ll pull the lever for him without any hesitation whatsoever. But most conservatives want better than that from the party’s champion. What are the prospects? Let’s try to weigh this dispassionately, if we can.
Romney, and the conservative movement (and the presidency, for that matter), may well benefit from low expectations. I recall from my days gnashing my teeth over California politics that whenever we had to settle for a weak or moderate Republican, we’d sometimes console ourselves with the thought that “maybe he’ll sell out to us.” That’s just what Jonah Goldberg thinks could happen with Romney in his column “The Case for Romney.”
Let me try to offer some solace. Even if Romney is a Potemkin conservative (a claim I think has merit but is also exaggerated), there is an instrumental case to be made for him: It is better to have a president who owes you than to have one who claims to own you.
A President Romney would be on a very short leash. A President Gingrich would probably chew through his leash in the first ten minutes of his presidency and wander off into trouble. If elected, Romney must follow through for conservatives and honor his vows to repeal Obamacare, implement Representative Paul Ryan’s agenda, and stay true to his pro-life commitments.
Meanwhile, a liberal observer, Theda Skocpol of Harvard, writes in the Washington Post today that Romney is a “stealth” Tea Party candidate. Let us hope this liberal paranoia is correct in this case!
Research shows that presidents strive to carry out the promises they make during campaigns. If Romney defeats Obama, he could take office backed by a Republican-led House and Senate, which would quickly send radical-right bills to his desk. A President Romney would sign them all — the Ryan budget eviscerating Medicare and Medicaid, a permanent extension of the Bush tax cuts, harsh immigration crackdowns, the gutting of ObamaCare. Whatever his deep-down beliefs, he would be determined to overcome any lingering conservative skepticism.
In Romney, the tea party has found the ultimate prize: a candidate loyal to the movement’s agenda, but able to fool enough pundits and moderate voters to win the White House at a time when the tea party has lost broad appeal. Pushing the Republican Party to the hard right and denying Obama a second term have always been top tea party goals. In Romney, the movement has just the man it needs.
So don’t despair, folks! Everything is going according to plan.