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From Rudy to Romney

by Patrick Ruffini :: January 29th, 2008 10:24 pm

I’m a longtime Rudy guy. In 1989, I remember staying up late on Election Night watching his losing battle with David Dinkins, and cheering four years later when he put New York back on the road to recovery. Even before 9/11, he was a fighter who brought his city back from the brink, and he wasn’t embarrassed to publicly shame the corrupt and depraved New York left. I remain convinced that had he brought a little of that pugnacity and grit to this campaign, he would have won Florida and the nomination. He didn’t wind up running a great race, but Rudy Giuliani is a great American, and I continue to believe he would have made a great President.

With Mayor Giuliani now all but out of the race, I have no qualms about supporting his fellow chief executive Mitt Romney for the Republican nomination.

Despite the outcome in Florida, Republicans across the nation should spend the next week thinking long and hard about the demoralizing prospect of a McCain nomination.

There has been a fair amount of discussion of flip-flopping in this race. Well, McCain has changed a few of his positions too. He changed away from conservatism. In the 1980s and early 1990s, he was a solidly credentialed member of the Reagan-Goldwater coalition who was right in line with the people of Arizona. In the late 1990s, when he saw that he could get better press for his dark horse Presidential aspirations as a “maverick,” he changed. McCain could fairly point out that he stood on “principle.” But it is equally fair to point out that those principles aren’t ours.

Over the summer, a few us — including McCainiacs Soren Dayton and Patrick Hynes — had a lively discussion about the future of the conservative movement. I believed then, and still do, that we desperately need to change. The fractures in the party this primary season — with fiscal cons taking out a hit on the social con standardbearer (who never had a chance to win the nomination), and Huck’s Army refusing to join with the most viable conservative alternative left after all hope was lost — shows just how badly we need to reunify the movement.

While the answers will be different than those of a generation ago, the attitude needs to be the same: that we are reclaiming the Party for long-lost principles with strength and assertiveness, not retreating and simply becoming more like the left. McCain represents the later kind of change.

Mitt Romney gets that you don’t win by retreating. You win by winning. There will be no pale pastels on the Democratic ticket this fall — and I would not want to go up against them with the sense that we somehow had to trim our sails, to elevate our party’s most ardent internal critic, in order to remain in office but not in power. At best, this is a reprise of how Clinton hollowed out the Democratic Party (see how their hearts are with Obama), and what Bush and the Republican Congress did with respect to spending. McCain would reclaim the spending mantle, but would surrender on all other aspects of domestic policy.

Mitt Romney is a better candidate than he lets on. His business acumen has hardly been explored in this campaign, at least not early enough. He is, as they say in Boston, wicked smart. Of all the candidates running, it is hardest to see the colossal managerial failures of Katrina happening under his watch. His plan wasn’t perfect, but I like the fact that he’s a Republican who’s tackled the health care issue. He can communicate about matters of war and peace, and his instincts are sound. He could position himself as a clean break on the economy. Attributes he had to soft sell in the primary campaign would provide attractive contrasts to Hillary Clinton in a general election. And in Presidential elections, Governors beat Senators. Romney is our last chance of getting that historically winning combination.

When it comes to the electability question, don’t focus on horserace numbers. Focus on the fundamentals. After weeks of fawning coverage, and weeks of seeing the press swooning for Obama and beating down Clinton, John McCain is no better than tied against Hillary. When it was last Clinton vs. McCain as the frontrunners, he ran worse than Giuliani and was seen as less dynamic. I expect that with either Romney or McCain, the race would settle into a 3-6 point Clinton lead in the near term, though it would tighten in the fall as voters focused away from Bush and on the choice between the two candidates. Politics is rarely as static as the early polls show, as this nomination fight proves in living color. Remember that Bush 41 wasn’t given much of a shot at this point in the ‘88 cycle and Gore was consistently behind by double digits and came within 537 votes.

None of this is to diminish John McCain as a true patriot. No matter who wins, we must quickly get behind the winner (I’ll have more on this tomorrow). I would gladly support McCain over Hillary because he is right on the transcendent issue of our time. But Romney would do everything that McCain would on the war, and he would be vastly more conservative on everything else.


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  1. A Soft Answer says:

    Patrick Ruffini: “From Rudy to Romney”…

    Patrick Ruffini:From Rudy to Romney
    There has been a fair amount of discussion of flip-flopping in this race. Well, McCain has changed a few of his positions too. He changed away from conservatism. In the 1980s and early 1990s, he was a solidly credent…

    # January 30th, 2008 at 9:57 am

  2. ADAM J SCHMIDT says:

    […] Having ruled ‘the revolution’ out I’m now faced with the difficult choice between John McCain and Mitt Romney.  Some of the conservative bloggers I respect have already picked sides: Soren Dayton for McCain; Patrick Ruffini formerly for Rudy and now for Romney.  Not sure where I’ll come down.  Although, since I’ve already voted it’s not as though I have much to offer at this point.  Particularly because it’s highly unlikely that I would ever support the Democratic candidate in the general election.  Really it’s just a question of how feverently I’ll be supporting our eventual nominee. […]

    # January 30th, 2008 at 9:58 am

  3. Nate's Thoughts says:

    McCain, Romney, or None of the Above…

    My first choice for president having dropped out, and my second choice (Thompson) gone before him, I am now faced with voting for my third ch ……

    # January 30th, 2008 at 11:56 pm

  4. The February 7th Sign or: Stop This Train, I Want to Get On at Blog P.I. says:

    […] Of course, that nominee is most likely to be John McCain. Ruffini, however, has switched his support from “Rudy to Romney,” as he put it Tuesday night. Therefore, the most likely scenario is he will have to grudgingly switch again. If the move is a painful one for many, better then to get it over with. But there’s more to it, as he explains in the announcement on his own site: You can probably tell that I have strong views about this nomination contest. Win or lose, I’m equally convinced of the importance of getting behind the eventual winner. A nation at war cannot afford Hillary or Obama in the White House. … Beyond just showing support for our nominee, we’re doing this to help solve a concrete strategic problem for our Party during the month of February. The simple fact is that when it comes to contributions from others, our candidates are broke. They’ve spent it all on Florida. No one is up on TV in any February 5th state, while Hillary and Obama have money to burn (I saw Clinton ads in California last weekend). Based on the fact that they have money to play with and have held a fundraising advantage throughout the cycle, there is a chance they could start pummeling our candidate with negative ads right away. If we fundraise the same old traditional way — with fundraising events and direct mail early and banking on Internet enthusiasm late — we will lose. There is no way we’ll be able to get the money when and where we need it. On the Internet in particular, contributions come in late, often too late for the money to be spent effectively. We’re hoping to help frontload some of this money so that the candidate can use it against Hillary/Obama right away. When it comes to giving, early is the new late. […]

    # February 3rd, 2008 at 3:02 am

  1. ajgop says:

    Another painful loss for the guru Patrick Ruffini. Stop your misery and get on board.

    # January 29th, 2008 at 10:52 pm

  2. Ali A. Akbar says:

    Haha. Wow, nice season eh? Out of touch with Republican voters….

    Go McCain

    # January 29th, 2008 at 11:14 pm

  3. Michael Tams says:


    First of all, I admire your political insight. I respect the work you do and you’ve obviously got a keen sense for politics. I also find it interesting that people comment here the way that they do. It takes guts to put yourself out there.

    I have to disagree with you about getting behind the winner, especialy if it is McCain. McCain isn’t correct on “the transcendent issue of our time”, because, frankly, the transcendent issue of our time isn’t Jihad. Or “Radical Islam.” Or the “war on terror.” You’d first be wrong in any of those terms because none of them define that actual threat, which is Islam itself. Westerners generally try to define Islam using non-Islamic theories and ideas, mostly because that’s all we know. It’s a wise person who will pause and reflect on that, none of which is the point of my comment. And if you think I’m a bigot or whatever, take this challenge: read their book. I don’t blame them, they’re just doing what Mahomet told them to do.

    No, the transcendent issue of our time is Liberalism, and on that John McCain is not materially different from any Democrat. It is because of Liberalism that we have a struggle with Islam. We cannot call it what it is given strict enforcement of speech codes; and therefore we’re certainly going to be condemned to fight these hard-to-win battles, and likely, fail to grasp the larger “fight” that is coming. It is because of Liberalism that we fight the social issues we do in America - and when those social issues strike directly at traditionalist values and structures, like the family, the danger is greater than any external threat. It is because of Liberalism that our great experiment in liberty - this unique and purposefully crafted form of government - is at risk of being destroyed. I have yet to speak to someone who thinks that the way our general government is run can be characterized as “good.”

    That there are concrete and observable events that have caused our long slide towards the true end of Liberalism (socialism) is readily evident.

    That we haven’t rallied around a rather simple concept for defeating Liberalism, however, remains unsettling. There is yet time, and I remain hopeful. But we’re either going to fix the mess that we’ve allowed ourselves to get sucked into, or mankind will curse us evermore for screwing it up.


    # January 29th, 2008 at 11:30 pm

  4. DanD says:

    Conservatives as a movement are fractured, and have been looking backward far too much, rather than forward. The country faces numerous challenges and opportunities for which creative, principled solutions could be advanced by a confident and adaptable conservative movement. The opportunity exists in the space of classical liberalism, defaulted to the conservatives by the nihilism of modern leftist directions.

    Looking at the legs of the stool, the economic conservatives and the national security conservatives have ample opportunities, although there is a clean-up period to go through for Middle East policy. The left has no viable alternative for the ME, so that can be toughed out.

    But what about the social conservatives? Have they backed themselves into a corner, losing touch with the mainstream of the surrounding society? Are their proposed solutions to the consequences of family breakdown in large swaths of society credible?

    Have they fallen into the trap of appearing intolerant to gays, to people raised outside of traditional families, to much of black and Hispanic America? Are they too insistent that candidates always-hated-abortion-before-the-other-guy-did instead of recognizing that at the margin a President’s pro-life contributions are mostly just appointing judges disinclined to legislate from the benches, and the pandering is actually counterproductive?

    And a conservative movement has to act within the two-party system, which means the grubby realities of incumbent protection rackets have to coexist with principled arguments.

    Well, it looks like the GOP will nominate Mr Incumbent Protection to put up a vain struggle in November. The resulting four or eight years in opposition should be a time for the conservative movement to resolve its focus on the past versus agenda for the future issues, giving Newt something to participate in.

    Then it can see whether a strengthened conservative movement can again become relevant to the outcomes within the Republican Party. Because this year, conservatives have not been determinative, at any step along the way.

    # January 30th, 2008 at 8:43 am

  5. imwithmmcain says:


    Your transformation to Hugh Hewitt junior is now complete. I’m sure once McCain wins you’ll continue to not have a job in politics.


    # January 30th, 2008 at 1:09 pm

  6. BDunc says:

    The question at hand is if the GOP is running to lead a Republican Party that no longer exists. Romney is definitely the best chance for conservatives…but it seems as though the country (including the Republican party) is being sucked into a moderate left-leaning hole. It’s time for conservatives to band together and elect their last hope for reuniting the Reagan coalition, Romney.
    Good choice, Ruffini. Lets hope that Republicans can make the same deductions.

    # January 30th, 2008 at 6:34 pm

  7. Renna says:

    As very strong Romney supporters in Florida, my husband and I have just watched the CNN debate. I was overwhelmed by the gross immaturity of every candidate on stage with the exception of Ron Paul and Mitt Romney. Ron Paul has many good messages and many that are not adaptable to society today but he is the wrong messenger for President. Mitt Romney is the only adult in this race and the Washington republican establishment is about to throw him under the bus and lose quite possibly our best hope for effective and meaningful leadership since Ronald Reagan. John McCain is a national embarassment in manner and speech -he is simply too old and represents the past and not the future for us. Mr. Ruffini, thank you for your endorsement of Mitt Romney. Your praise for Rudy is perhaps well founded but his actions of endorsing John McCain reveal a true political hippocracy.
    If he were truly the man and the leader that you say you know him to be, then he would have endorsed Mitt Romney because he has the experience, the intelligence, the verbal skills and the statesmanship of a true leader. John McCain has none of those qualities and I grieve for America if he is chosen over Mitt Romney as our nominee. I have met Mitt Romney on several occasions as I worked on his campaign here in Florida - a true gentleman with a gift for analysis and communication.

    Mr. Ruffini - how about an article dealing with the endorsements for John McCain that he so boldly touts - most of them old Washington guard who also represent the past and more youthful wannabees like Charlie Crist sucking up for a VP or cabinet position. Mel Maritnez who has a 25% approval rating in Florida and is the object of an impeachment movement for his more liberal positions on immigration. It was south Florida that put him over the top - open borders supporters. Rick Keller ran as a family values conservative who engaged in an extramarital affair when he got to Washington and cast aside his wife and small children. The NYT - all such stellar endorsements. Or how about detailing Mitt Romney’s endorsements - Judge Bork who has the respect and admiration of all conservatives for his courage and tenacity. Jay Sekulow, admired and revered by evangelical christians everywhere - Mark Demoss who shares that distinction, as well. Many congressmen and women and state legislators who represent forward thinking hope for our country instead of the same old rhetoric and Washington nonsense. Personally, I think they”do not like Mitt” - what childish behavior for persons aspiring to hold the highest office in our land because they fear he will upset their comfortable lifestyle in Washington. They are afraid he will reveal to the tax payors the monumental waste and abuses of power that take place there.

    We are so grateful that Mitt Romney and his family have agreed to subject themselves to all of this campaign “hell:”.We should be so lucky as to have him be our President.

    # January 30th, 2008 at 10:40 pm

  8. liz says:

    Amen to that last post! GO MITT!!! Go ahead, post his rock-solid endorsements, I dare ya!

    # January 31st, 2008 at 12:28 am

  9. Eric Dondero says:

    I join you Patrick, in going from Rudy to Romney. Mitt is the only one who can appeal to libertarian-minded voters, who are fiscally conservative, yet socially centrist. McCain is “fiscally centrist/socially conservative.” The opposite of what we need.

    If McCain gets it, you’ll see a great many libertarian Republicans fleeing to the Libertarian Party. And that will hurt the GOP in the general. Romney can keep libertarians in the fold.

    I’m voting Romney!

    Eric Dondero, Fmr. Senior Aide
    US Congressman Ron Paul (R-TX)

    # January 31st, 2008 at 6:22 am

  10. mlu says:

    thanks Patrick, As als an ardent Romney supporter, I shook my head and the inability of Mr McCain to say 1) he was wrong2)If can listen to the American people on the fence all of a sudden, why does he paint Mitt as bending to political winds, and the MSM just go along with it adoringly, being swept in the vortex. It reminds me of those who voiced their displeasure at us going to war in Iraq, in 2003, they were shouted down by one and all. Plus they were treated as non-Patriots. Why is that people like Gov Arnold, can say “he’s an American hero” as if that is a qualification for president. He is possibly too wrapped up in his old movies, like Sly Stallone.If that were the case, there are so many who have given their time and talents too,and suffered from POW camps all over. It takes more that puffing up your chest, and saying “see! see!” to be fit for the presidency. Mr McCain is self-serving, self-seeking, and a scary man with wierd side to have his finger on this country’s trigger. A thirty or so lead lead in the delegates, doesn’t make you the presumptive leader, if that were the case, this campaign would have been over last week, with my man in the lead.This thing is not over till the delegates are finally counted. GO MITT!

    # January 31st, 2008 at 6:59 pm

Patrick Ruffini   Patrick Ruffini is an online political strategist, blogger, and wearer of many hats. More...

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