Opinion: Mitt Romney is the Not-Bad Candidate in a Sea of Terrible Ones

Monday, January 23, 2012 - 03:32 PM

Republican presidential candidate and former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich speaks at a Space Coast Town Hall Meeting Newt Gingrich speaks at a Space Coast Town Hall Meeting. (Joe Raedle/Getty)

In a perfect world, we'd have a perfect candidate.  Or a good candidate.  Or a not-terrible candidate.  But it is not a perfect world so we are left with Mitt Romney, Newt Gingrich, Rick Santorum and Ron Paul.

I discount Rick Santorum and Ron Paul off the bat. 

Despite Santorum playing the role of "true conservative" in this race, he supported Arlen Specter over Pat Toomey because of political expediency in a close Pennsylvania primary, and for that I will never forgive him. He's also a social conservative without being a small government conservative and while I appreciate someone who is both, anyone who is the former without the latter is unacceptable to me. 

Unlike a lot of my fellow conservatives, I like that Ron Paul exists. I just don't want him to exist as president.  He does not waver from his small government line and I appreciate that a lot. However, he simply takes philosophy too far and in the real world he'd be a disastrous leader. It's nice to imagine that we can reset global grievances to year zero and pretend history had never happened but reality intrudes on this perfect picture.  And that's just the surface of the deep problems I have with Ron Paul as a potential leader of the free world.

That leaves Newt Gingrich and Mitt Romney. Despite the idea that Gingrich is somehow the more conservative of the two, they're both essentially moderates with a host of issues unpalatable to a conservative base. Gingrich took money from Freddie Mac/Fannie May, cut climate change ads with Nancy Pelosi and attacked House Budget Committee Chairman, and Republican hero, Paul Ryan. Romney crafted, and still supports, the legislation that went on to become Obamacare. 

With the idea that they're the same politically, people are choosing based on personality. And yes, let's insert the obvious joke here that it's hard to do that with Mitt Romney since he doesn't have one.  Ha. Ha. 

Yet, for the second presidential election in a row, I'll be voting Mitt Romney to try to stop the other guys from winning.  Last time it was McCain, Huckabee and Paul. This time it's Newt, Santorum and Paul. 

My reasons are simple and I can give them without using the annoying word "electability."  It's wrong to choose candidates based on electability -particularly when their electability turns out to not be quite so electable (see McCain, John) and my preference for Mitt Romney isn't that I think he can win anymore than I think Newt Gingrich can win (fact is: I think it's near impossible to beat incumbents, especially one on the Wall Street donor payroll as Obama, and don't imagine either will win).

1) Newt Gingrich picks the wrong targets. Republicans, myself included, can't help but enjoy when Newt rips into the media. We've been putting up with so much for so long and he speaks to all of our frustrations. But "The media" is not the Democratic candidate for president. Mitt Romney's attacks on Obama are far better, more targeted and more effective. Making this election about Obama is the only possibility for a Republican candidate to win.

If we make it about the media, Obama wins by default. The media isn't running. Other targets have included capitalism, in the form of his attacks on Bain.  Is the Republican party running against capitalism in 2012?  The unions in Florida sure hope so. They're joining Newt in attacking Mitt Romney.

2) Newt Gingrich is a loose cannon.  He reminds me of a professional poker player named Mike "the mouth" Matusow. Both are so good at their respective games yet both are prone to blow themselves up at the worst possible times.  Watching poker on TV the audience can laugh at Matusow's spectacular flame-outs during a game. It's a lot harder to laugh at a potential U.S. president doing the same.  Gingrich is the only Speaker in House history to be reprimanded by colleagues and ordered to pay a fine for his ethics violations.  Nothing funny about it.

3) Newt Gingrich's ego is...let's say outsized.  He keeps saying he wants Lincoln-Douglass style debates with Obama and puffs up his chest as if he'd win.  I can say a lot of bad things about Barack Obama, don't get me started, and I do think Obama is kind of a boring speaker, prone to platitudes that don't mean anything, but no one would say Obama is not a good debater.  That Gingrich thinks it would be such a cakewalk makes me think he has no idea what he'd be getting into. Also, Lincoln-Douglass debated seven times for 3 hours each. Is Gingrich joking? Who has that kind of time or attention span?  They didn't have TV back then.  We've got Real Housewives to watch!

4) His lack of discipline is sort of legendary. This one is touchy for me because I consider a lack of discipline to be one of my own major problems. It's hard to criticize someone for what you can see are your own failings. I overeat, I underwork, I get distracted by the new Leonard Cohen album streaming on NPR and suddenly it's two hours later and I've read Cohen's entire online biography and followed it up with Bob Dylan's and Nick Cave's for good measure.

I'm lazy, I'm late.  And this is why, ladies and gentlemen, you don't want me as your president (so don't go through the effort of changing the Constitution to allow non-natural born Americans to run, ok?).  And that's why you don't want Newt Gingrich either.  As I type this, Newt is 35 minutes late for an event in Tampa, Florida, a state that can be make or break the election for him.

Even with something this important he can't get it together.  The lateness could almost be forgiven if it weren't for the rest of his campaign.  As recently as a month ago Newt Gingrich remained on a book tour.  He's not on the ballot in his home state of Virginia because of a campaign mistake.  It's hard to take seriously a man who doesn't take himself seriously.  Newt Gingrich doesn't.

As I noted, Mitt Romney has a host of problems but none of them seem quite so insurmountable as the ones that consume Newt Gingrich.  If Gingrich was more conservative, or less establishment, I could see why Republicans would stand with him.  As it is, the only thing he's got that Romney doesn't is that he yells better.  The problem with that is you never know when you're going to be the object of his discontent. Newt judges you know, and you might be next.


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Comments [7]

Lark Remhaus from brooklyn

It is disappointing that we choose based on pure politics and not on competency and statesmanship. This is a well-done political analysis, but stands far from addressing the qualities of a president that should be examined if we want a reason to vote for someone. I know principle is dead, but I'm not living pollyanna here. Our generation is no more blessed or damned than another. I'd rather be here than under Paul's Nero. And I don't think our current President is a statesman either.

But, where we have the freedom to analyze, it would be cool if that line of thought would intervene somewhere. Political analysis matters, but it is the overweighted driver of the conversation bouncing from Fox, MSNBC, the web, etc.

We tend to think we can divorce the man from his principles, his behavior from his governing capacity, leaving us with his good looks, electability, and, as you have given here, a simple and simplistic choosing between inepts. (and dumbing down of all the options btw: Santorum can't be considered apart from his olympic gaffes. Paul seems more than the parroted cliche dismissal cited here. Newt cannot be considered apart from considering integrity.)

If we just hire good script readers such as Romney and Obama, they're gonna once again cost way too much.

Even if a statesman doesn't appear right now, the voice in media can call for it without lobbying and simply by giving opinion and reporting on the facts - the times when off and on we do have people standing for something.

Jan. 26 2012 12:06 PM
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Jan. 26 2012 07:06 AM
ChrisOS from NYC (Washington Heights)

Proposing a contest in response to Romney's claim yesterday that Americans would not WANT a president who paid more in taxes than he had to. Looking for top 10 reasons why Americans would want a multi-multi-millionaire who paid as much in taxes as he could. (Bloomburg pays taxes on his income as income; he does not take advantage of the "deferred interest" loophole.) I'll start. Reason 1. The amount Romney pays Price Waterhouse to do his taxes in the most complex way to pay the lowest rate would support 50 families of 4 for a year. 2. He should recognize that his $20 million income should go proportionately to free services that he uses more than middle income citizens (such as FAA, FDIC, highways,...). 3. He supports all the wars that are actually contributing to the deficit; many of us pay taxes that go toward wars we do not support.

Jan. 25 2012 10:58 AM
Shane Ownbey from USA

He is a much better candidate than Obama is a President. You may quote me on that!

Shane Ownbey

Jan. 24 2012 11:43 AM

I'm so disappointed to read that you have "discounted Ron Paul right of the bat." Your rhetoric against him is so upsetting! Ron Paul's beliefs are great as long as they're never put into action? Even the neoconservatives have conceded that Santorum, Romney, and Gingrich are *all the same,* and that at this point, people are voting based on personalities. This is sick!

Real conservatives believe in the viability of freedom and liberty. How can we fear a man who wants to give us freedom? If Romney is the nominee, it is likely that Obama will beat him. Even if Romney becomes the president, we are in for 4 more years of the same old problems. Our economy will continue to fall apart, and we will continue to enter illegal, undeclared wars. It's a debacle.

Challenge the status quo. Don't fear change.
Ron Paul 2012

Jan. 24 2012 05:45 AM
Justin Krebs from NYC

Good points throughout, Karol. You hit on some of the reasons why I agree Romney would be a more formidable candidate in the general. I still think he'll be the GOP nominee, but I also agree with you: an incumbent with a load of money is tough to beat, and tomorrow is likely not to be President Obama's final State of the Union.

Jan. 23 2012 06:23 PM
Jackson Baer from Oregon

I know Ron Paul won't win Florida but I hope he does better than 10%. I don't know why his appeal is so limited in the Southern states. Are my Southern friends that opposed to his foreign policy and the idea of living by the Golden Rule? I'm from Georgia and I just don't get it. Paul is fiscally conservative and stands for liberty and freedom.

Jan. 23 2012 06:23 PM

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