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<< Previous: John Edwards | Next: The Field >>

Mitt Romney
Wednesday, 2008 January 2 - 8:58 pm
Continuing my series on presidential candidates, here's my look at Mitt Romney.

If there's a Republican equivalent of John Edwards, it's Romney. Polished. Handsome. Robotic.

Mitt Romney was an early entrant to the Republican field, and he came in with a lot of momentum. Though he was little-known in national politics, he had already built a lot of popularity in Massachusetts as governor. He passed a widely-hailed health care system that provided for near-universal coverage with the help of state subsidies for the poor (though a lot of the credit for that system should go to the state legislature). He turned a $1.2 billion deficit into a $700 million surplus, through a combination of higher taxes and lower spending.

(Of course, some of that lower spending came at a cost to his state's residents; grant reductions to universities led to massive tuition hikes, and cities and towns suffered with decreases in aid grants.)

He also helped champion his party's crusade against same-sex marriage after the state Supreme Court, an effort that endears him to values-oriented conservatives.

And, he's wealthy enough to fund his own campaign, thanks to a successful career in management consulting. That endears him to fiscal conservatives and businessmen.

So what's wrong with him?

Well, it turns out his conservative credentials are suspect. He hasn't always been solidly anti-gay, and more critically, he hasn't always been solidly anti-abortion. He even attended a Planned Parenthood fundraiser in 1994. He says he's reformed his position, but critics are wary that his position is more one of political expedience.

It doesn't help when he calls himself a "hunter" for having shot a couple of squirrels and rats, or implying that his sons' service in his political campaign is comparable to soldiers' service to the country. It's statements like that that reinforce his image as an opportunist, trying to jump on popular sentiments that will help him politically. Maybe he's not just a Republican version of John Edwards; maybe he's a Republican version of John Kerry. You can be sure that conservatives are not thrilled about THAT prospect. "Flip-flop", anyone?

And oh yeah: he's a Mormon. (Does he wear temple garments? That's a mental image I don't need.) There's a small but notable percentage of Americans who simply won't vote for a non-Christian.

So, while Romney enjoyed early popularity, he has seen his poll numbers wane while upstarts like Huckabee have gained. He's still a front-runner in many states, but by no means the candidate of destiny.

It's hard to read how he'd do as President. It seems like he'd be fairly moderate in his positions, but I don't know that he'd necessarily be a consensus-builder; his interaction with the Democratic state legislature has been contentious at times, with the legislature overriding his vetoes on a number of occasions. And his willingness to pander to elements of his constituency, well, that might prove to be problematic down the line.
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