The Romney dilemma

The Romney dilemma

August 30th, 2012 in Opinion Free Press

It's hard to ignore the lengthy parade of Republican luminaries in the crowd and on the stage at this week's Republican National Convention that would make better candidates and, yes, better presidents than Mitt Romney.

By now, the same question has begun to creep in the dark recesses of the mind of many Republicans: "Would we be better off if Romney loses in November?"

After all, you have to get pretty far down the list of potential 2016 GOP presidential candidates before you find someone who is less conservative, less exciting or less authentic than Romney.

What conservative wouldn't rather have the chance to vote for Florida's energetic junior Senator Marco Rubio or free market firebrand Rand Paul, a Senator from Kentucky, than have to hold his or her nose and vote for Romney? Certainly, many Republicans would rather see a bona fide conservative like South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley or Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal, or a true blue budget hawk like Sen. Jim DeMint of South Carolina or Sen. Tom Coburn of Oklahoma, in the Oval Office, instead of Romney.

Governors Chris Christie and Scott Walker, of New Jersey and Wisconsin respectively, are popular, outspoken and battle-tested. It isn't hard to imagine that either would have a much easier time than Romney of defeating the Democratic nominee.

Even former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and recent Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, each of whose popularity is muted as a result of their association with the shortcomings of the George W. Bush administration, would be more tolerable choices than Romney for many, if not most, Americans.

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With so many good candidates waiting in the wings for a possible run at the White House, could it be better for conservatives, the Republican Party and the nation as a whole if Romney loses and a truly great, transformative conservative emerges in four years?

Therein lies the Romney dilemma:

Should Republicans work to elect Romney, knowing that he's an unpromising -- if not outright lousy -- conservative, with the awareness that if Romney is elected, it will take Obama out of the White House, but it will also prevent the election of a far better candidate in four years?

Or, should Republicans essentially throw the election in the hopes that a gridlocked -- or even GOP-controlled -- Congress can limit the amount of damage Obama can do during a lame duck term, and a great set of Republican presidential candidates will emerge during the next election cycle?

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The whole scenario of Republicans bailing out on this election and focusing instead on 2016 is made more sensible and enticing by the almost comically weak bunch of candidates that the Democrats expect to trot out in 2016.

Hillary Clinton, who would certainly make for a formidable candidate, claims that she's retiring from politics and has no interest in running again for president. That leaves New York Governor Andrew Cuomo as perhaps the only sane, reasonable, scandal-free candidate Democrats have in their stable. Certainly, names like Rahm Emmanuel, Janet Napolitano and Dennis Kucinich are almost laughable as presidential contenders. It's so bad for Democrats that Joe Biden may be a serious threat to win the party's nomination in 2016, for god's sake.

Since it figures that any one of a dozen or more Republican candidates could beat the Democratic nominee in 2016, why not bite the bullet and put up with four more years of Obama?

There is only one particularly good reason not to: Obamacare.

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If the most important goal for Republicans in the coming months is to repeal Obamacare, it is vital to consider the most realistic way to make that dream a reality. Quite simply, that's with Obama out of office.

Even if Republicans control Congress after November, it won't be by a veto-proof majority. That means that any attempts to overturn Obamacare would, of course, be summarily rejected by President Obama.

To make matters worse, if a Republican isn't elected president until 2016, almost all portions of Obamacare will be in place at that point. In fact, several of the final pillars of Obamacare are scheduled to take effect on Jan. 1, 2017, less than three weeks before the president would be inaugurated.

At that point, it may be possible to defund some portions of Obamacare, but truly repealing the scheme once it's almost entirely enacted is unlikely, even with the most conservative of presidents in office. As Ronald Reagan once said, "Government programs, once launched, never disappear. Actually, a government bureau is the nearest thing to eternal life we'll ever see on this earth!"

Despite creating a mandatory health insurance scheme in Massachusetts that served to inform and inspire Obamacare, Romney claims that his first priority as president would be to repeal the program.

Will Romney, who displayed the ideological backbone of a nightcrawler during his time as Massachusetts governor, be willing to uphold such a fiercely conservative -- and not entirely popular -- campaign promise? And even if Romney is willing to sign a bill that overturns Obamacare, will he have the votes in Congress to get such a bill to his desk?

If Republicans believe the answer to both questions is "yes," they should do all they can to elect Mitt Romney. However, if the answer to either question is "no," it will be better in the long run for conservative values and the Republican brand to work to elect as many Republicans as possible to Congress this November, let the Romney campaign die on the vine and put up with another four years of Obama. After that, Republicans will be rewarded with one of any number of principled, respectable, and responsible conservative presidential candidates.