Is This Romney's Time?

In the 1960s, there was a Romney who was a successful businessman, who was a popular governor of Michigan, and who ran for president—unsuccessfully. His name was George. He had a son who also became a successful businessman and governor of a state—Massachusetts—and who ran for president as well—unsuccessfully.

Thus far, Mitt Romney has followed almost precisely in his father’s footsteps. Prior to his political career, he was best known for taking over a scandal-plagued Olympics committee in 1999, and turning it into a world-class Winter Olympics program in 2002. His ability to do that helped ease him into the world of politics.

Using the prestige earned by his Olympics management, he won the Massachusetts governorship in 2002. He declined to run for a second term, setting his sights instead on the Republican presidential nomination in 2008.

He attracted a lot of support from conservatives, particularly economic conservatives, not only for his time as president of the Winter Olympics Committee, but also for his background as CEO of a private equity investment firm. In fact, he won the endorsement in the primaries of the conservative magazine National Review, which lauded him on its cover.

As I watched the primaries unfold, I wondered why he was getting so much support from such staunch conservatives. His views on abortion kept changing over time, and he had set up a healthcare plan in Massachusetts that many see as a state version of Obama’s plan. Romney says he opposes Obamacare, and I don’t doubt his sincerity about that, but he has a lot of explaining to do as his Massachusetts plan has followed the same trajectory of increased costs that Obama’s legislation is beginning to manifest. Some people are wondering, “What’s the difference?”

This political cartoon from a few years ago poses the same question with respect to Hillary Clinton’s proposal back in the 1990s:

While it seemed he might have the inside track for the 2008 nomination, he stumbled in almost all the primaries, much to the chagrin of his supporters who felt he was the most qualified of all the candidates. When he pulled out of the race, economic conservatives were crushed. But why they were so crushed is a mystery to me when I consider what he did to healthcare in Massachusetts.

So, on policy issues, let’s just say I’m not convinced he’s all that solid. One of the complaints against him is that he sometimes seems rather opportunistic, willing to change his views to get ahead.

I have to bring up one more point. It’s a sore point, and will undoubtedly open me up to charges of bigotry [the accusation of choice these days]. He is a Mormon, and I hold steadfastly to the belief that Mormonism is not Christian. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints is not simply another Christian denomination; it is an entity unto itself. And, in my view, it is a rather strange entity in its doctrine. Individual Mormons, it is true, often lead lives of strict morality [which is good for the nation], yet the foundation for what they believe is far afield from the Biblical understanding of the nature of Jesus Christ and how salvation occurs.

Some will say, well, what does that have to do with governing? I would rather not place someone into a high office in the land whose religious beliefs are based on what I perceive to be a great deception. This does not mean I hate Mormons. On political matters, they are usually quite conservative, and we can agree on what needs to be done with respect to government. Yet, on spiritual matters, I have to disagree, and religious beliefs do form the foundation for everything else we believe as individuals and as a nation. Personally, I would want to limit Mormon influence in our society.

As I said, I realize this opens me to charges of intolerance, but I submit that is not the case, at least in the manner most would think. I do not think God wants us to tolerate error, yet He always wants us to reach out to those who are in error and be willing to share His truth. We are to love, not disdain or reject, those who have followed a wrong spiritual path.

If it came down to a stark choice—Romney or Obama—there would be no hesitation on my part. Obama’s worldview is so blatantly anti-Christian, and the policies he promotes are so unbiblical, that I could never wish another four years of his administration upon us. In such a circumstance, Romney would have my vote. I just hope I won’t be reduced to those options.

There is no question Romney is running again; his team is already together and moving ahead. In that respect, he is ahead of nearly every other potential candidate. Will he have what it takes to win this time? Personally, I am more comfortable with either Sarah Palin, the subject of yesterday’s post, or Mike Huckabee, the subject of tomorrow’s.

Looking to 2012

The 2010 congressional and gubernatorial elections have barely passed, yet the speculation for 2012 has begun in earnest. Although some of that speculation can be found on the Democrat side, it would take a political earthmover to remove Obama as the candidate.

Interestingly, two Democrat pollsters, Doug Schoen and Pat Cadell, have urged the president to remove his name from contention in the upcoming election. I don’t think he’s going to take that suggestion seriously. Others continue to harbor hope that Hillary Clinton will reenter the fray. That’s highly unlikely at this point. Again, only an unforeseen event of significant magnitude could create that option.

The more serious pondering is on the Republican side. There are numerous names floating around as the potential nominee. High on everyone’s list are the three who seem to dominate the early polls among Republican voters: Sarah Palin, Mitt Romney, and Mike Huckabee. A second tier of candidates includes Indiana Governor Mitch Daniels, Minnesota Governor Tim Pawlenty, and former House Speaker Newt Gingrich. Then there are Mississippi Governor Haley Barbour, South Dakota Senator John Thune, and former Pennsylvania Senator Rick Santorum, who, I believe, who comprise another—and lower—tier.

Among the second tier, Daniels has a solid reputation for fiscal sanity, as Indiana has done well on his watch. He did make a statement, though, that social issues need to take a back seat at this time. Personally, I’m bothered by anyone who wishes to separate the two. Can he reintegrate the economic and the social? They really do belong together, and he needs to understand that issues such as abortion and marriage are the glue that binds social conservatives to the Republican party.

Pawlenty served well as governor of Minnesota. Perhaps his greatest strength is that he was able to win and govern as a conservative in a state that’s well known for its liberalism. Not many politicians can claim that type of success. I have heard as well that he is an evangelical Christian, which is a key factor in my calculations. The one knock against him is that he’s not very exciting. On the one hand, being exciting is no barometer by which to gauge a person’s effectiveness as a leader. Yet it is true that the candidate will have to energize the voters. Can Pawlenty do that? The verdict is still out.

Gingrich was the leader of the Republican takeover of Congress back in 1994. He’s always been full of ideas and can be an electrifying speaker. He’s articulate and always focuses on the positive, pointing Republicans toward a future of economic growth. Lately, he’s also been more outspoken about his newly revived faith, having recently become a committed Catholic. As many commentators note, though, there is a lot of baggage with Gingrich. On the political side, he is sometimes considered a “bomb-thrower,” as his comments have led to problems in the past. Then there’s the fact that he’s abandoned two wives. His third wife, to whom he has been married for the past decade, had an affair with him while he was Speaker and still married to wife number two. Even if he has repented of that, can he really be trusted to stay the course morally with that kind of track record? It’s a genuine concern, as personal morals can undermine the best political agenda.

Barbour, Thune, and Santorum are long shots, but you never know in this atmosphere. Yet most of the attention belongs—rightly, I believe—on the top three: Palin, Romney, and Huckabee. I want to take time to evaluate them carefully in separate posts. That will be my goal for the rest of this week.