If one were to be casting a President for a high budget Hollywood thriller, Mitt Romney is the person you would cast. His resume, his look, his family and his political presence are just about perfect. Having taken the time to read his economic policy, even though I take issue with a few points, it is perhaps the most well thought out I have ever seen from any presidential candidate. In interviews and debates it is clear he has a command of the issues and background few non-incumbent candidates have ever had before the first primary. At a time when America faces tremendous economic challenges, his business and economic background appear to be a perfect fit for the times. Sure his time as a private equity job cutter would be fodder for the Obama 2012 attack machine, but all Americans know the real world economy is a tough place. While other candidates have challenged him, and in some cases passed him for the GOP front runner, Mitt just cruses along in the low to mid 20 percent range, almost rock solid. Add to that a campaign financial war chest which is unmatched among the GOP contenders and Mitt Romney would seem to be almost inevitable. Almost.
So why is it that the GOP, and particularly its conservative base, has not rallied around Romney? Even more puzzling is that in 2008 when John McCain appeared to be on the verge of taking the nomination, conservatives and conservative media personalities tried to rally around Romney in the Stop McCain movement. What a difference 4 years makes. The cliché answer is the similarities between Obamacare and Romneycare. The fundamental difference between 2008 and 2012 is the enactment of the single most unpopular act of social engendering in American Political history. The democrats and President Obama drank their own Kool-Aid and passed their central government focused healthcare reform on the belief that once passed the American people would like what they saw. Instead the people shocked them and the more they saw, the more they disliked the Democrat healthcare plan. The result was one of the biggest midterm butt slappings in the last century. Now even a casual observer would have known Mitt Romney had some explaining to do. Indeed there are some major differences not the least of which is that the Massachusetts plan was a state plan, not federal and as such no unconstitutional. We conservatives have always believed in the 10th Amendment and Romney care may well have been appropriate for Massachusetts which had a solidly democratic legislature.
Yet this spring when Mitt Romney gave his much anticipated speech on healthcare reform, it was like watching a bad PowerPoint presentation by a Chief Financial Officer trying to explain away a bad quarter with double talk. I must admit watching it with great anticipation and figuring that day I would fall in behind team Romney and support his candidacy. Instead I saw a technocrat trying to explain away the similarities of the two programs without distancing himself from his signature achievement as Governor of Massachusetts. As George Will recently said, the GOP had found itself a Massachusetts Technocrat Governor; in Mitt Romney we have our Michael Dukakis. Now I have been reading George Will since I was in High School (that would be before Reagan was President) and even I was taken aback by that characterization. Mitt Romney is far more charismatic and I believe honestly passionate about his candidacy than that other Governor. Yet in that article was the core issue with Mitt Romney; the more I see him the more I feel he is a designer candidate. Created by committee and focus group tested.
Recently a quote of Winston Churchill struck me as relevant to considering Mitt Romney, “I shall not be deterred from doing what I am convinced is right by the fact that I have thought differently about it in some distant past”. That Mitt Romney has seen his positions evolve over time does not in and of itself bother me. I have struggled over the question of the rights of the unborn for a year until ultimately concluding life begins at conception as much on scientific grounds as moral (a discussion for another time). Yet when you look at Mitt Romney’s positions over the years you just come away with the feeling changing polls had as much to do with this evolution as did intellectual consideration. I wish Mitt would just sit down and truly speak from his heart, less polished, and explain why he has changed over time. For gosh sakes, Ronald Reagan voted for FDR, more than once!. Most conservative not only would understand his changing views as many of us have changed over times (OK, most to a lesser extent).
Mitt Romney’s candidacy is not without significant strengths from a conservative perspective. The Romney family seems genuinely loving and well grounded as does his marriage, a fact not lost on many conservatives in comparison to others in this campaign. Romney is by far the best campaigner in the race, with only Rick Santorum as comfortable in front of the camera during debates. One can almost smell the fear from Team Obama 2012 at the prospect of facing Romney in the fall of 2012. As one who believes the defeat of President Obama is crucial to the future of America, electability is no small consideration. My fear is some of my conservative friends have been drinking our own flavor of Kool Aid and believe anyone can will next year. While I think 2012 is now a Republican year to loose, it can be lost.
So what does Mitt Romney have to do to convince me, and I think many conservatives, that he has earned the privilege of being the nominee of the party of Lincoln and Reagan? Mitt Romney has to show me that what he says he believes in his heart. That he shares the same conservative vision of the Future of America that we do, and is not just regurgitating campaign slogans. I would tell Governor Romney to go face to face with your conservative critics and leave the private equity sales pitch behind. Show us the values that helped raise a great family. Governor Romney, it is as much the vision thing as anything. The real vision thing. Conservatives have been sold a bill of goods before by fast talking back slapping wanna-be conservatives more than once. The question is, are you the real deal.