At the American Spectator, Philip Klein argues that Mitt Romney is the frontrunner for the Republican presidential nomination in 2012. Judging him against the other candidates who seem to be running, Klein argues that “bizarre as it may seem, despite his numerous weaknesses, Romney appears to be the most likely to win the right to challenge President Obama.”
I don’t know if that is true or not, but it gives me pause. I am not particularly enthusiastic about any of the the potential Republican standard bearers against Obama whom Klein touches on in his column. Nevertheless, I want to take the occasion to reiterate my qualms about Romney (also adumbrated by Klein) in light of Klein’s column.
In 2008 I was inclined to support Governor Romney as the rightwardmost viable candidate in the Republican field. John McCain had in addition alienated me by his use of conservatives as a foil to create his maverick image over the years. Senator McCain nevertheless effectively raised questions about Governor Romney’s conservatism and authenticity.
In retrospect, 2008 was destined to be a good year for Democrats and Governor Romney was probably fortunate to have been spared the honor or carrying the Republicans’ presidential banner. He too would have lost to Obama.
If Republican voters use their customary rule of succession to pick their candidate in 2012, Governor Romney would be the beneficiary, and 2012 stands to be a better year for Republicans than was 2008. But will the MItt fit in 2012?
The radicalism of President Obama’s agenda has provoked a conservative resurgence most evident in the Tea Party movement, which harks back to the principles of the American founding. Professor Paul Rahe describes the phenomenon in “Is Paul Rahe right?” Professor Hadley Arkes provides a similar take in “A crisis Republicans should not waste.” The Republican candidate who can best capture this lightning in a battle would, at this point, appear to be the natural bearer of the party’s standard in 2012.
As the man who presided over the adoption of the Massachusetts health reform plan, Governor Romney is particularly poorly positioned to be such a standard bearer. Our friend Hugh Hewitt briefly addressed Governor Romney’s health care program at pages 150-153 of his highly complimentary 2007 book A Mormon in the White House? Hugh quoted Romney describing the program as one in which “we can get everybody else insured without spending any more money…Now that was the kind of rigorous analysis that you follow and that I followed in consulting. It’s data. It’s analysis.”
Is it unduly cynical to suggest that Governor Romney signed off on Romneycare in order to have a big bipartisan policy accomplishment to claim when he moved on to run for president? If things worked out as planned, he would have moved on to higher office before the house of cards began to collapse back home.
Governor Romney devotes an unsatisfactory chapter to the Massachusetts health care legislation in No Apology. Those in search of “data” and “analysis” on the predictable consequences of Romneycare in Massachusetts might want to take a look at Richard Epstein’s “Early warning from Maine, Massachusetts,” or Rich Lowry’s “Obamacare’s already had a disastrous preview.”
However difficult it is to imagine the political landscape of 2012 now, I doubt that Governor Romney will be holding up the Massachusetts health care legislation as an exhibit supporting his prospective candidacy. Yet Governor Romney has not yet made this particular calculation. Perhaps he feels he has no choice; perhaps he really believes in it. The Wall Street Journal’s Peter Wallsten documented one of Romney’s defenses of Romneycare in “Romney dogged by a tale of two health plans” The New York Times’s Kevin Sack does likewise in “Mitt Romney on health care: A particular spin.”
Wallsten quoted a Democratic MIT economist whom Wallsten credits with assisting the design of Romneycare: “If any one person in the world deserves credit for where we are now [with the passage of the new federal law], it’s Mitt Romney. He designed the structure of the federal bill.” Sack quoted Romney himself to almost equally devastating effect: “Whether you like what we did or think it stinks to high heaven, the point is we solved it at our level.” Really? He then compared the two plans: “I like the things that are similar, I don’t like the things that are different, and that’s why I vehemently oppose Obamacare.” It’s not exactly a rallying cry, and the Times story includes a few more painful details.
Suffice it to say that Governor Romney is probably not the man to lead the resistance to Obamaism. If he isn’t yet toast, I can’t help but think he should be.
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