By Kelse Moen
In my last post (below) I scoffed at the notion that John McCain would choose Mitt Romney as a running mate, noting that “a liberal northeasterner” who was “repeatedly repudiated” by the voters would add little value to the ticket. But in the days since, fueled by Fred Barnes’ article in the Weekly Standard and Romney’s statement of the obvious on Hannity & Colmes, a flurry of speculation has emerged over whether he will be McCain’s VP. I still stand by my original conclusion, but nevertheless, the week’s events warrant a deeper analysis of Romney’s VP potential.
Barnes mentioned that Romney has been the favored candidate of the Bush administration, which just recently gave McCain its official endorsement. This plays in to the belief among many on the right that Romney is, in the words of Laura Ingraham, “the conservative’s conservative,” someone who can energize the party base. But if this were true, why didn’t Romney win solid conservative states like Iowa, Georgia, or South Carolina? And how does it account for his various declarations of support for gun control and abortion rights, or his healthcare plan that used the coercive apparatus of the Massachusetts state government to command all citizens to buy healthcare?
Romney could only cast himself as the true conservative in this particular election, when more authentic ones like Fred Thompson and Sam Brownback suffered from a lack of structure, drive, and enthusiasm, and when all the other front-runners somehow kept finding new ways to infuriate the right. If McCain wants to choose a conservative, he could do far better than Romney.
McCain should also not base his decision on what the Bush administration wants. Most of his appeal is based on his willingness to stand apart from the Republican establishment and forge his own path. By kowtowing to Bush he will only further alienate the independents and moderates that he sorely needs in November.
This is not to say Romney is all bad. As governor of Massachusetts he was generally quite fiscally responsible, especially when compared to the Democratic legislature and Deval Patrick, his Democratic successor. Romney would bring an emphasis on economics and fiscal responsibility that McCain sorely lacks. (Though McCain is a principled opponent of congressional earmarks, he also supports a drastically increased role for the United States as world policeman, remember, a job that will not pay for itself.)
Romney is not the worst person McCain could choose. But there are far better people out there. I believe history will look on Romney (if it looks on him at all) as an unimpressive politician who rose to prominence only because 2008 was an unimpressive year. The sooner we all realize that, the sooner we can all forget him.