The first of a whole host of partisan elections is happening tomorrow, with the Republican Presidential primary. For the first time in my adult lifetime, it has at least the appearance of mattering, even though the word from both the national and local commentariat is that the only meaning should be to endorse the decades-long Next-In-Line™ concept. Indeed, Sen. Ron Johnson endorsed Mitt Romney yesterday, which is a bigger “get” for Romney than Rep. Paul Ryan’s endorsement on Friday.
While I have always acknowledged that Romney won the 2012 nomination back on SuperDuperTuesday 2008, and indeed all of the recent polls have Romney comfortably up in the primary, I’m not a slave to the inevitable, especially when it has not yet become official. Let’s ask President John McCain how securing the 2008 Republican nomination months before Barack Obama finally won the Thunderdome of a Democrat nomination process worked out…oops, I guess we have to ask Sen. John McCain that because he lost in fall.
Some people I respect, such as Charlie Sykes, have said that Romney is “good enough”. If we were guaranteed not only a Republican Congress, but a conservative one, I would agree because Romney would almost certainly sign what comes out of a conservative Republican Congress. However, I look at the other possibilities (and frankly, the ones that are more likely than one that results in a conservative Republican as Senate majority leader), and find the prospect of a Romney Presidency versus one of much the rest of the Presidential field a bit lacking. Given the two most-likely scenarios of, in order, Harry Reid effectively controlling the Senate while Mitch McConnell takes all the heat as the titular “majority” “leader”, and Reid remaining Majority Leader, Romney’s propensity to sign anything that came out of the Massachusetts Legislature, especially PlaceboCare and a more-expansive-than-the-state-courts-required subsidy for abortion, is problematic.
On a related note, there will likely be at least two members of the Supreme Court, and countless other federal judges, that will need to be nominated in the next Presidential term. Romney’s record in Massachusetts was quite poor on that, and the defense that he had to rely on a third-party commission for names is less than satisfying.
That brings me to the Not-Mitts. Ron Paul’s economic platform, outside the siren call of gold, actually is pretty good. Unfortunately, the office for which he and the others are running is not Treasury Secretary, so his historically-naive take on foreign policy becomes a disqualifying stumbling block.
Newt Gingrich does have an impressive record and a bulldog political ethic. The bad news is his conservative core is not exactly dominant, as appearances on a couch with Nancy Pelosi touting global warming and his rant against Ryan’s budget as “right-wing social engineering” last year demonstrate. The biggest problem Gingrich has is, outside of Georgia and South Carolina, his sometimes-abrasive (yes, it’s only abrasive sometimes) personality put him consistently third or worse. Since it is as late as it is in the primary season, I do have to take that into account.
That brings me to Rick Santorum. I would be lying if I said he was perfect, or even particularly good. His vote for Medicare Part D and No Child Left Behind are at a minimum troubling. His support for Arlen Specter over Pat Toomey in 2004, while a payment of personal debt, would in the face of better competition be a knockout blow. His voting record on judicial nominations is not quite 100% judicial conservatives. However, his instincts are conservative, though more on the social side than on the fiscal or governmental side. That is more than I can say for Romney.
Did I mention that Santorum got former Sen. Russ Feingold (off-topic; I’ll never get tired of including the “former”) so flustered over what happens if a partial-birth abortion attempt turns into a live birth that Feingold had to go back and alter the record? That was priceless.
Yes, we will have to mold either Romney or Santorum to be a truly broad-based conservative. However, it is easier when part of the poltiical personality already fits the mold. That person is Rick Santorum.