Time for Virginia Conservatives to Take Another Look at Mitt Romney

This is a post that has been brewing in my brain for some time, but was finally pushed through to my fingers by my friend Shaun Kenney’s post on Ron Paul. Shaun, forced by the utter incomptence of the other campaigns to choose between Mitt Romney and Ron Paul, made his case for the latter. Given the choice in front of us, my preferences lean heavily toward the former, and I can’t think of a better place to explain why than here at BD.

I will not discuss the various character and association issues that critics of Paul have raised, mainly for two reasons: first, Ken Falkenstein did it already; second, those who still support or are considering supporting Paul have already discounted much or all of that on the assumption that he represents the best chance to advance limited government. It is that assumption I will challenge in this post.

Let’s go right to the heart of the problem most conservatives have with Romney (including myself): Health Care. Just about everyone knows of Mitt Romney’s support for the individual mandate in Massachusetts and nationwide. However, it takes more than a mandate to bring about socialized medicine (in fact, a mandate might not even be necessary – Barack Obama vehemently opposed one in 2008). It also requires a willingness to use the government’s monopoly/monopsony power in the market to regulate prices and deny services. This is the great danger of single-payer systems such as the British or Canadian examples; this is the concept that led to Obamacare’s “death panels”; this is the danger that in my view is far greater than the mandate discussion (although the mandate is no small potatoes).

Which candidate has supported using the American government’s monopsony power to distort the market in such a fashion? Not Mitt Romney

Moving on, let’s look at social issues. Ron Paul repeatedly refers to himself as “pro-life,” but it would be more accurate to say he has a “popular sovereignty” view on the matter (i.e., it is purely a state issue). That would certainly be an improvement over the status quo, but it hardly means much given that the only way that scenario occurs is an overturn of Roe v. Wade. While I am fairly certain Dr. Paul would do his best to find Justices that would bring that about, the endorsement of Mitt Romney by none other than Robert Bork tells me I can trust either man on this point. Beyond that, Romney’s admittedly unusual travels on this issue (many move one way or the other; he is one of the very few to double back to the pro-life position) are largely irrelevant for now. If Roe were overturned, there may – stress may – be some space between the two, but I’d be happy to see that bridge in my lifetime, let alone cross it.

Shaun also mentioned gun rights, and I’d be a fool to say Romney is better than Paul (or even equal to him) on this; but a Republican presidential victory in November will mean a fully Republican Congress (the Democrats have to defend nearly two dozen Senate seats next year), and if a Republican Congress passes restrictions on gun rights, we have much bigger problems than Mitt Romney or Ron Paul.

Finally, it might be a good idea to take a look at Romney’s budget record, which involved erasing a large shortfall without a general tax increase despite a hostile legislature – something for which many conservatives have praised Bob McDonnell for two years now. Personally, I’m not comfortable with either Governors’ over-reliance on revenue-generating fees or the closing of tax “loopholes,” but I’ve been deep in the minority on that opinion for a good while now. What’s good from Richmond (for those who think it is) should be just as good from Boston.

Paul, by contrast, has greatly over-leveraged his old reputation as “Dr. No.” Lest we forget, the man who repeatedly talks about the proper role of constitutional government sponsored legislation that would have created an insurance moral hazard and could have partially reflated the housing bubble. He even had this to say about it:

Providing tax relief to first-time homebuyers and to those affected by natural disasters should be one of Congress’ top priorities.

I don’t remember that priority coming out of Philadelphia in 1787.

This leads me to a greater problem with Dr. Paul: his limited government mantra disappears when microeconomics are involved. From a macroeconomic perspective, Paul checks all the boxes on limited government; move to the micro-level and he becomes much more comfortable with economic distortions than his supporters like to admit. As a Congressman, that problem can be manageable, as a President, it can lead to the “targeted tax-cuts” fiasco of the Clinton years, or the above monopsony issue. Compared to this, Mitt Romney’s economic record, while hardly sterling (see above), holds up quite well.

Of course, there is foreign policy: perceived to be Paul’s greatest weakness. Even Shaun admits he has a problem with it (so I’d advise you to just read what he has to say on the matter first), but I would also add two other points. First, unlike any of the other candidates, Romney clearly perceives the economic danger from the Chinese Communist Party – both in their currency distortions and their lack of respect for intellectual property rights. In fact, Romney is the only presidential candidate I have seen focused on the intellectual theft issue. In response, his opponents have sneered at him for daring to spike the “engagement” Kool-Aid. Secondly, but just as importantly, Dr. Paul completely fails to understand the importance of a vigorous foreign policy in aiding limited government. Jefferson suffered from a similar lapse in his Administration, and he found himself caught between the French and British Empires. The result was the Embargo Act fiasco – the closest that 19th century America ever came to a police state – and the catastrophic War of 1812.

Romney, for all his faults, understands the threats to America and the havoc they can wreak. While this election season has focused far less on foreign policy than it should, we cannot forget it.

I would add one more item to my list of reasons why Romney deserves a second look in the Old Dominion: he has been the best performing candidate, by far, of any in the field. As the other candidates have moved from gaffe to gaffe (Bachmann on vaccines, Paul on foreign policy and the supposed bigotry of his opponents, Cain on foreign policy, Gingrich on judges, Perry on just about everything, and Santorum on whining about debate time), Romney has been near-perfect. The only thing that comes close to a slip-up was his attempt to goad Perry into a $10,000 wager.

I am loath to mention general election polling, in part because only Romney has been consistently polled against Obama, but it is telling that despite the turbulent reaction from Republican voters, the general electorate has nearly always put him ahead of Obama or in a statistical tie with him. Clearly voters are seeing something they like, or can at least entertain seriously, in November 2012.

Virginia Republicans and conservatives are faced with a choice between two men who are far from perfect; both have admirable qualities, to be sure. However, a thorough and detailed examination of the choices reveals that Romney is better on the critical matters in front of us than he appears, while Paul is a good deal worse than he appears on these same matters. I can understand why my good friend Shaun would lean Paul’s way, but for the reasons above, I can not agree with him.

  • Mike McKay

    I agree.

  • A very balanced objection, Mr. McGuire.

    Still, in the balance… I disagree. 🙂

  • Jim Hewitt

    Good article, D.J. — There is much to admire in both candidates. Both have strong support and are on their second run as GOP candidates. Both have built a strong fundraising arm and can go the distance to the Convention. My support remains with Governor Romney because I understand the importance of defeating President Obama. My support is with him because of his business and executive experience (i.e. – Winter Olympics, Bain Capital, Governor Of Massachusetts). My support is with him because he has consistently polled at or above the President for well over a year. Of course he has his shortcomings, God knows we all do. I find it important to look at the importance of the primary AND the general election. I have nothing but respect for and consider myself a good friend to many who support Dr. Paul. I will not criticize either him or his campaign. However I will continue to work as hard as I can for Governor Romney – he has my support, my vote and my prayers. As we move towards March 6th I hope many will consider voting for Governor Romney as well…

  • Bingo. That’s why I’m voting for Romney. Great post, DJ.

  • Unless Ron Paul looks like he might win Virginia I am not voting at all in the primary. Until we realize that our party system and nomination process is broken we will never change anything in presidential politic.

  • Darrell

    Obama and Romney are neck and neck in the polls? Great! That means he has the same approval rating as Obama. Whale dung is polling higher.

  • CW

    Romney is a terrible candidate and with him, we are destined to have as our nominee a distinction without a difference on this election cycle’s central issue of the individual mandate. I will cast my ballot but it will not be counted for the milquetoast moderate or the libertarian.

  • With all due respect, Romney is the only one of the two who has won a statewide election in a blue state. Part of the reason was the process and the opponent he faced at the time. In the case with Obama I do not see Romney out leveraging the center as well as Paul. I was more anti Obama than pro Paul a year ago but as the primary gets underway and I see the warts and all from each candidate, Paul seems to suck a lot less than any of the challengers, especially Romney. NONE of the candidates overwhelm me with confidence.. all of them are better than Obama.. Romneys record does not suggest that he has the charisma and strength of character to win over enough independents and disaffected dems to win the Obama vs. (R) battle.

    DJ, good article. What is job #1 for you?

  • Darrell, Obama is polling at 47%. You’re thinking of Congress when you’re thinking of whale dung.

    Turbo, the middle is going to take one look at what was written in those newsletters and throw up their hands. They’re going to take one look at Paul’s military stances, his end the Fed routine, and the rest and they’re going to run for the hills. There is no way Ron Paul is going to win over independents over Barack Obama.

    I don’t know if Romney will win over disaffected Dems, but he’s got the best shot (other than Huntsman) of doing that compared to all of the other candidates. And unlike Obama, he’s got a solid track record in both the public and private sectors.

    It is going to be interesting to see how the matchup between Romney and Obama is framed. I think Romney wants it to be “Proven, experienced job creator vs. Socialist community activist.” I think Obama wants it to be “1% vs. 99%”

    What I do know is that I much rather have that debate than “Insane vs. Sane” which is what the Democrats will frame a Paul vs. Obama race.

  • Ron Paul tirelessly attacks the Fed and lays out better than anyone the case for eliminating Fed’s distortionary interventions due to their adverse impact on the most micro of all economies — the individual consumer. In most areas, Paul doesn’t just want to change or reduce Federal regulations, he wants to eliminate entire packages of regulation altogether. Paul argues for free markets. Romney wants well behaved, government controlled markets. And you say Romney, with his big business, crony capitalist, Wall Street, save the banks at any cost perspecitve, is better than Paul on the economy? That’s called reasoning from a conclusion.

    Ron Paul has articulated the case for life a thousand times for every time Romney has, and if you insist on putting beliefs into action, Paul has brought thousands of lives into this world, and counseled young women against abortion countless times. I can’t imagine slick Mitt getting involved at the grassroots life level, not a bit Mitt.

    On China, I had the good fortune when I worked for the government to consult with the Chinese on economic reforms. In my area they declined to follow our model — too socialist they said. The Chinese have become more like us than different, in some ways better after their reforms. They are not the same as they were 10, 20 or 30 years ago. Romney has an archaic point of view.

    And you finger the Chinese as the party guilty of currency manipulation after QEI, QEII and Operation Twist have been rolled out by the US Fed, on top of TARP and those trillions of dollars of overnight loans? In the US interest rates are near zero. In China one-year interest rates are at a market nor of 3.5 percent. Please explain who is the monetary manipulator, if you can. You claims reek of getting into areas that you do not understand.

  • Brian, trot our all those letters.. all of em. I would love to see a true transparent discussion of both Romney and Paul warts and all on stage.. Hmm.. An RPV sponsored Paul Romney debate.. nah, the establishment is too in the tank for Romney so that aint happening.

    As for RP’s stance on the military I used to agree with you until reality bit.. Meet people outside of the inner circle of politics who are unaffiliated with party nonsense and you might be surprised to hear what people are saying.. More people distrust the media than before and the slams on Paul are not doing as much harm as they might later but people could care less what the gop or dnc say right now.. Both parties are a liars paradise in the minds of the masses.

  • Conservative gal

    Romney said a couple of days ago an individual mandate is conservative. Will he repeal Obamacare?

  • LBF, sure, Paul has laid out his case for ending the Fed. But he doesn’t have anything to replace it with. There’s no such thing as a completely free market, and if you think the Fed is bad, why do you think an completely unregulated Wall Street would handle things any better?

    That’s what I don’t get – Paul is fine with tearing things down but his alternatives have been proven ineffective. That’s why we have the things he wants to tear down in the first place.

  • This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.