Will the Mitt Fitt? A Rejoinder

Earlier today Scott expressed skepticism about Mitt Romney as a 2012 Presidential contender, based on his sponsorship of a health care plan in Massachusetts that bears some similarity to Obamacare. I don’t disagree with Scott’s point, but would qualify it to this extent: there is an important difference between a state-wide program, which, if it turns out to be a poor idea, can be replaced by a better one, and a national program, the purpose of which is to forever destroy private health insurance and the private practice of medicine and usher in a single-payer system.
What I really want to comment on is this: Scott acknowledges that “If Republican voters use their customary rule of succession to pick their candidate in 2012, Governor Romney would be the beneficiary….” That thought deserves elaboration. In recent history, there has been a striking difference in how the two parties choose their presidential nominees. The Democrats seem fond of underdogs and long-shots–Jimmy Carter, Bill Clinton, Barack Obama. Republicans, on the other hand, have almost robotically selected the next guy in line–whoever finished second last time, or seems to have the nomination coming by virtue of his services to the party. Thus, we got Richard Nixon, Gerald Ford, Ronald Reagan, George H. W. Bush, Bob Dole and John McCain. It’s actually a pretty stunning trend.
If it holds, will Romney be the GOP candidate in 2012? Seemingly so, with perhaps one qualification: Romney hasn’t spent his adult lifetime, like most of those named above, serving the Republican Party. It isn’t entirely clear that most Republican voters see Romney as the man whose time has come.
Still, the pattern is a strong one, and right now Romney looks like the beneficiary of it. Would that be a bad thing? I don’t think so. Everyone’s number one concern is the economy; that will probably be even truer by 2012 as the Democrats’ various chickens come home to roost. Romney has a deeper understanding of the economy than anyone who has ever served as President or as a Congressional leader, at any time in our history. To me, that seems like a very strong recommendation. Compared to Romney, Barack Obama will come across on economic issues in 2012–assuming he runs for re-election–like a little boy.
So, while I think Scott is right on the health care issue, I’m not sure that point will be dispositive by 2012, or should be.
PAUL adds: I tend to side with Scott on this one. I might have been Power Line’s most vocal Romney supporter in 2008 (indeed, I think I was the one who first declared, perhaps not very presciently, that “the Mitt fit”). However, I suspect that health care will count as two strikes against Romney in 2012.
I’m also concerned about Romney’s inability to connect with voters. A candidate who couldn’t remain competitive with John McCain, a somewhat unpopular figure with the Republican base, in 2008 is going to have to convince me he’s the man to take on President Obama in 2012. But one good thing about the much derided primary process, and pre-process, is that it will tell us how well Romney connects in the current climate. Thus, there’s not much need to speculate about this now.