This post, save the first paragraph (and with a different title), was originally posted on Virginia Virtucon.
Like most in the rightosphere, I was looking for a candidate who would (1) defeat the president this November, (2) move the country in the proper direction as president, and (3) leave the country safer from foreign enemies and domestic problems when he exits the office. Also like most in the rightosphere, I looked at Romneycare and TARP, and immediately disqualified Mitt Romney. Further, like most in the rightosphere, I watched the other contenders flow and ebb with growing frustration and disgust.
Unlike most of the rightosphere, I responded by requalifying Romney. Once I came to terms that this would be the presidential field, I realized that I would be stuck with a very imperfect candidate of some kind. Thus, Romney could not automatically be worse than the rest of them. So I looked at the field again with a fresh view.
Of course, Romney’s domestic policy problems didn’t disappear, but compared to Rick Perry’s obvious if unspoken support for TARP, Gingrich’s history with health care mandates and Fannie Mae, Dr. Paul’s microeconomic confusion, Bachmann’s vaccine fiasco, Hunstman’s time shilling for all that was wrong with President Obama’s policy towards the Chinese Communist Party, and Santorum’s complete inability to get traction (at the time), Romney did not look particularly out of bounds.
Still, had domestic records alone been the deciding factor, I doubt I would be zigging while the rest of VV zags. There were two other factors that led me, much to my surprise, to backing Romney.
First, he is clearly the best performing candidate in the field. This has actually shocked me. I saw how Rick Perry demolished Kay Bailey Hutchinson in Texas, and I’m still wondering where that guy went. The other candidates seemed to go from gaffe to gaffe in painful fashion while Romney simply continued a campaign so well-oiled that it has become a victim of its own success (complete with runaway expectations and insistence of insinserity from his critics). Moreover, and this stunned even me, Romney has been remarkably consistent in his stands on issues from 2008 to now (even the ones where I’d rather he change his view). Outside of his double-back on preborn life (no small matter, to be sure), it is Romney’s changes in tone (and the vastly different political environment around him), that has fed the “flip-flopper” theme. I will admit I would like a more detailed explanation of his personal journey on the life issue, but if there was ever a time for him to drift back toward his 1990-2005 position, it is now, with this field. It hasn’t happened. I would also note that Romney is also rising in the one place he was never supposed to get traction: South Carolina, and according to Gallup, his national numbers hit 30% this week. Both are signs that Romney’s “ceiling” is not quite as solid as his opponents think.
Secondly, and I’ll admit this matters to me more than most, he is far and above the most anti-CCP candidate in the field. In fact, he is the only candidate to consistently criticize the Chinese Communist Party, which has earned him criticisms from Paul, Hunstman, and yes, Rick Santorum (in fact, Santorum’s support for trade protection except where the CCP is concerned is one of the key reasons I chose to pass on him). Again, he has been very consistent on this over the last five years (in 2008, Duncan Hunter was far tougher on Zhongnanhai, there is no such candidate in the 2012 field).
Those were the factors that, for me, were enough to overcome Romney’s clear weaknesses on domestic matters.
However, the actions of Romney’s opponents have, if anything, reinforced my decision. Mme Lovettesvile has discussed how Romney’s opponents have tried to turn his career as a venture capitalist against him (I would note that Dr. Paul is only candidate not joining in the insane pile-on, which is a credit to him). Santorum, the candidate to whom I admittedly paid almost no attention until he nearly won in Iowa, proceeded to blow his chance to win me over with a call to raise taxes (then I noticed his anti-Romney comments on Communist China, mentioned above).
This is how Mitt Romney became, and remains, the best cnadidate in field as far as I’m concerned. Yours view may (and where the other contributors are concerned, they definitely do) vary.