Today I have the distinct pleasure of publishing the third installment of the DailyWrit Candidate Profiles, which will examine former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney. Romney, 60, attended Stanford before leaving for France on a mission trip customary in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Upon his return, he transferred to BYU and eventually graduated from a join JD/MBA program at Harvard. He was a successful businessman before bailing out the near-bankrupt Salt Lake Olympic Committee. He later unsuccessfully sought the Massachusetts Senate seat currently held by Ted Kennedy – who accused him of being “multiple-choice” on abortion (the first of many allegations of flip-floppiness). In 2002, he was elected Governor of Massachusetts – and, two days before leaving office after declining to seek a second term, he announced his Presidential Exploratory Committee.
Romney has since grown into a giant. Our Election 2008 Tracker indicates that he currently holds strong leads in Iowa and New Hampshire, and has been trending solidly uphill in these states for over six months despite his miserable numbers in national polling:
In terms of policy, Romney (now) favors the Death Penalty and chartered schools, but is opposed to comprehensive abortion rights and civil unions. As I mentioned in a blogging here, Mitt is very electable at the top of a ticket when a more experienced moderate (such as Giuliani or McCain) is placed at the bottom. Those of us familiar with any government textbook every written are very acquainted with the concept of “the big mo” – and thus find it easy to imagine the chain reaction that strong Romney victories in early primaries will begin. But what will it take for Mitt to carry this momentum to a victory in the General? In my opinion, not much:
First, the obvious point: Romney must be the healthcare candidate. Romney’s unconventional reforms of the MA healthcare system reduced abuse of the emergency rooms while quickly ushering the middle class into a new era of affordable alternatives. Our new pals over at Dry Fly Politics are really more authoritative Romney supporters, so check here for a more comprehensive analysis of Romney’s healthcare plan and a rather innovative Q-and-A about the Mormon faith.
Second, Romney needs to hold in Iowa and New Hampshire. Self-explanatory. Fortunately, Iowa will want to lead towards Romney as time goes on. This is a state with a rich dark horse history, and one that cares deeply about the environment. Luckily, Mitt is in favor of regulating greenhouse emissions. Perfect!
Third, Romney needs a clearer explanation of his immigration position. His ideas about needing to defer to “the rule of law” rather than “deals” will hit home with many Americans of both parties IF they can ever get an explanation this simple.
Fourth, Romney needs to get an answer to the flip-flop line quickly. All of us who continue to believe that there is justice in the world are waiting for Iowa to become so saturated with “flip-flop Romney” that he will never get a chance to explain anything else. The problem? Unlike Kerry, who “flip-flopped” on Iraq, Romney’s major flip-flop was on abortion. The Progressive Truth recently dug up some debate footage of Romney in 1994 that shows his tendency to backtrack (embarrassingly). It thus seems that his shaky stances could not only ostracize potential donors, but it could leave voters confused ahead of the Primaries in states where Romney has spent less time (see our calendar here). Also? He’s a(n alleged) porn hypocrite. Explained here by Hendrickson’s Haven. Just click it.
Fifth, Romney needs to stop saying he supports No Child Left Behind. You can support it, Mitt – just keep it to yourself.
Sixth, stop being stupid about stem cell research. Take a lesson from the one thing Bill Frist ever did correctly. This can swing a huge number of voters away f handled incorrectly, and can also cement him in the shadow of a Bush administration with a less-than-stellar record on social policy.
Seventh, and most importantly, manufacture some foreign policy credentials. One of the few lessons Bush has imposed on us is the clear non-sequitor between Texas Governor and “war president.” Democrats have been pandering frantically for months to become documented, “caring” experts on major international issues: Obama in Darfur, Clinton is Israel, Richardson in South America, and Biden in the larger Middle East. Admittedly, such a move is substantially easier from the seat of a Senator than from the position of a non-position-holder such as Mitt. Still, I would like to see Romney earn some foreign policy credentials. If the General Election debates follow the same format as they have recently, at least one will be entirely devoted to international issues. At this point, almost any Democrat currently polling at or above 1% could make Romney look absolutely goofy.
All in all, Kedar and I agree that Romney is the undisputed favorite (70%?) for the RNC nomination. Ultimately, he could easily cough up this advantage if he gets used to the “least bad” mentality explored here by the Blog of the Moderate Left.
(Those of you with a keen eye will note the curious omission of the religion issue. As I touched on here, I believe that his faith will prove far less important than most political pundits think. But we shall see.)