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.Uncategorized