Getting a Reading on Romney; Mitt's Not Perfect, but He's Good Enough

Article excerpt

Byline: Jeffrey Kuhner, SPECIAL TO THE WASHINGTON TIMES

Conservatives are asking a reasonable question: Will a Mitt Romney candidacy turn into another debacle like Sen. John McCain's in 2008? The Arizona maverick was said to be the most electable of the Republican nominees. Many GOP voters held their noses and supported Mr. McCain. Yet he was defeated - convincingly - by Barack Obama. Following Mr. Romney's crushing victory in Florida's Republican primary this week, many rank-and-file activists are wondering whether history is about to repeat itself.

The emergence of Newt Gingrich isn't being driven by a love for the former House speaker. Rather, many conservatives are rallying behind him because he is the only viable alternative to Mr. Romney. Unlike the former Massachusetts governor, Mr. Gingrich is willing to wage a frontal assault on President Obama's leftist policies. He is not afraid to attack Mr. Obama relentlessly - and with passion, emotion and courage. Gingrich Republicans argue that Mr. Romney possesses no ideological core, that he lacks any fundamental conservative convictions.

Moreover, Gingrich supporters think Mr. Romney is simply another moderate Republican in the mold of Bob Dole and Mr. McCain. Just as those men crashed and burned, so will Mr. Romney, in their view. In their eyes, the Republican Party is about to commit suicide: By abandoning its principles in favor of power, the GOP will lose both. Hence, Mr. Romney must be stopped - even if it means backing a flawed candidate like Mr. Gingrich. This is why his followers are urging him to fight on in the remaining 46 states.

There are similarities between Mr. Romney and Mr. McCain. Both are establishment Republicans. Both are distrusted and disliked by large segments of the conservative movement - especially talk radio. Both have signature issues - Romneycare, McCain-Feingold - that constitute major political liabilities. And both lack personality and charisma. Yet that is where it ends.

In fact, the two men could not be more different. Mr. Romney is a much stronger candidate. He is more articulate, telegenic and disciplined and possesses a considerably deeper grasp of the issues. Mr. Romney would be the first GOP nominee since President Reagan to be able to defend Republican positions effectively. The Bushes, Mr. Dole and Mr. McCain were all dismal failures regarding a key aspect of politics: communication. This alone makes Mr. Romney a serious threat to Mr. Obama's re-election.

Most important, there is one overriding difference between Mr. Romney and Mr. McCain: The former venture capitalist is not a creature of Washington. The Arizona senator had spent decades on Capitol Hill. He was and still is the consummate insider. During the 2008 campaign, he came across - like Mr. Dole in 1996 - as a career politician, someone obsessed with process and Senate wheeling and dealing.

Mr. Romney is the exact opposite. He has spent most of his life in the private sector, running a successful business and turning around troubled corporations. …