I'm inclined to agree with the Editors at National Review which endorsed Mitt Romney for the GOP nomination. I think it's surprising given the amount of support that they have provided to Giuliani over the past year. Here's an excerpt:
Romney for PresidentI too was attracted to the thought of Thompson, but "Lazy Like a Fox" may be more descriptive of his work ethic than some "OODA-loop" campaign strategy (the "A" in OODA standing for Act and there hasn't been much action by the Thompson campaign).
By the Editors
Many conservatives are finding it difficult to pick a presidential candidate. Each of the men running for the Republican nomination has strengths, and none has everything — all the traits, all the positions — we are looking for. Equally conservative analysts can reach, and have reached, different judgments in this matter. There are fine conservatives supporting each of these Republicans.
Our guiding principle has always been to select the most conservative viable candidate. In our judgment, that candidate is Mitt Romney, the former governor of Massachusetts. Unlike some other candidates in the race, Romney is a full-spectrum conservative: a supporter of free-market economics and limited government, moral causes such as the right to life and the preservation of marriage, and a foreign policy based on the national interest. While he has not talked much about the importance of resisting ethnic balkanization — none of the major candidates has — he supports enforcing the immigration laws and opposes amnesty. Those are important steps in the right direction.
Uniting the conservative coalition is not enough to win a presidential election, but it is a prerequisite for building on that coalition. Rudolph Giuliani did extraordinary work as mayor of New York and was inspirational on 9/11. But he and Mike Huckabee would pull apart the coalition from opposite ends: Giuliani alienating the social conservatives, and Huckabee the economic (and foreign-policy) conservatives. A Republican party that abandoned either limited government or moral standards would be much diminished in the service it could give the country.
Two other major candidates would be able to keep the coalition together, but have drawbacks of their own. John McCain is not as conservative as Romney. He sponsored and still champions a campaign-finance law that impinged on fundamental rights of political speech; he voted against the Bush tax cuts; he supported this year’s amnesty bill, although he now says he understands the need to control the border before doing anything else.
Fred Thompson is as conservative as Romney, and has distinguished himself with serious proposals on Social Security, immigration, and defense. But Thompson has never run any large enterprise — and he has not run his campaign well, either. Conservatives were excited this spring to hear that he might enter the race, but have been disappointed by the reality. He has been fading in crucial early states. He has not yet passed the threshold test of establishing for voters that he truly wants to be president.
Romney is an intelligent, articulate, and accomplished former businessman and governor. At a time when voters yearn for competence and have soured on Washington because too often the Bush administration has not demonstrated it, Romney offers proven executive skill. He has demonstrated it in everything he has done in his professional life, and his tightly organized, disciplined campaign is no exception. He himself has shown impressive focus and energy.
Some conservatives question his sincerity. It is true that he has reversed some of his positions. But we should be careful not to overstate how much he has changed. In 1994, when he tried to unseat Ted Kennedy, he ran against higher taxes and government-run health care, and for school choice, a balanced budget amendment, welfare reform, and “tougher measures to stop illegal immigration.” He was no Rockefeller Republican even then.
We believe that Romney is a natural ally of social conservatives. He speaks often about the toll of fatherlessness in this country. He may not have thought deeply about the political dimensions of social issues until, as governor, he was confronted with the cutting edge of social liberalism. No other Republican governor had to deal with both human cloning and court-imposed same-sex marriage. He was on the right side of both issues, and those battles seem to have made him see the stakes of a broad range of public-policy issues more clearly. He will work to put abortion on a path to extinction. Whatever the process by which he got to where he is on marriage, judges, and life, we’re glad he is now on our side — and we trust him to stay there.
More than the other primary candidates, Romney has President Bush’s virtues and avoids his flaws. His moral positions, and his instincts on taxes and foreign policy, are the same. But he is less inclined to federal activism, less tolerant of overspending, better able to defend conservative positions in debate, and more likely to demand performance from his subordinates. A winning combination, by our lights. In this most fluid and unpredictable Republican field, we vote for Mitt Romney.
McCain had his shot in 2000 but thought his constituency was the press corp riding along in his bus and not the voters. His stalwart positions on the War On Terror are admirable, but his positions on Campaign Finance and Illegal Immigration are inexcusable. We called his candidacy doomed in May of this year.
I also am attracted to Huckabee and think he would fare well against Hillary!TM or Obama. He certainly has excellent debating skills - similar to those of a Baptist preacher. However, his gut instinct on economics is protectionism and that is the last thing that our economy needs in the 21st century. Protectionism is an easy philosophy to push, since few in the electorate understand the true implications of such policies. Standing up for free trade and continuing to eradicate trade barriers (which still exist in the US) is desperately needed - not the opposite. Similarly, Huckabee's penchant for using the government to "do good" are a cause for concern - especially to those of us who've bit our tongues during W's presidency. His "F" rating from the Cato institute on Spending and Tax policies certainly does not impress me. (Perhaps we could get Matt Blunt (R-MO, A-Rating) to run?)
As NR points out, there isn't a perfect conservative in the field... However, the past two GOP Presidents have been far from perfect. While W was unabashed about "compassionate conservatism" during the 2000 campaign, we were reassured that this meant that Bush would demonstrate that conservatism (specifically free market principles) is more compassionate than government intervention - especially when one looks to the results. While W. made attempts in this regard with his tax cuts, the possibility of vouchers through No Child Left Behind, and the ownership society, his continually expansive government spending have been anything but conservative. From prescription drugs to the ballooning of Federal funds in education, W. has been anything but conservative.
Mike Huckabee would be a continuation (or perhaps an expansion) of this trend kicked off by Bush. Giuliani would most likely begin the reversal of that trend and remain vigilant in the War On Terror. But NR is right to point out that many social conservatives would not show up to support Giuliani, especially with the likely retirement of one or more Supreme Court Justices on the horizon.
The only concern that I have with a Romney nomination is his Mormon faith - specifically how it would be received by conservative evangelical voters. I'm also concerned with how the MSM and bloggers will cover Mormonism and how the Democratic nominee will use it in 527 ads in key districts. Romney has started to address those concerns, but there is plenty of work left for him to do in this regard.
Iowa and New Hampshire certainly will be interesting!
ARC: St Wendeler