Illinois, you know the future of the country is in your hands.
The GOP All Agree: It’s Time to Replace Barack Obama
The GOP nearly unanimously agrees that our four year experiment with an inexperienced Senator at the helm has been a disaster. I read yesterday an article at Politico whose headline was “CBO: Exploding debt under Obama policies.” That article says public debt is expected (under CBO rules of prognostication) to increase from $10.1 trillion in 2011 to $18.8 trillion in 2022. For the current fiscal year:
…CBO is now projecting a shortfall of $1.3 trillion. In fiscal 2013, the deficit will still hover near the $1 trillion mark — about $977 billion. And while it will fall to 2.5 percent of GDP by 2017, it then begins to grow again to 3 percent of GDP by 2022.
With 5 more years of Barack Obama, without threat of losing a re-election bid, one can imagine how bad it could get. How long has it been since the Senate proposed a budget? How much time do we have to repeal Obamacare before the contraception controversy becomes par for the course, and the Federal government begins telling religious institutions what it must buy for its employees?
And this doesn’t even consider foreign policy.
Picking the Replacement
So our choices to replace Barack Obama are now clear. Ron Paul, Newt Gingrich, Rick Santorum or Mitt Romney.
While there’s much of Ron Paul’s philosophy on the appropriate constitutional size of government I find appealing, he won’t win an election against Barack Obama. The last two elections in which the GOP nominee was elected were decided by the slimmest of margins. I don’t believe that American citizens are ready to make the radical changes Ron Paul would advocate. And I’m not ready for his approach to foreign policy.
I’ve written before that while Newt Gingrich seems to be an idea machine, he doesn’t know the difference between a good one and a bad one, which is not a good trait for a president. As an attorney for executives, I have observed that some people actually get things done, and others like to pontificate and tell others what to do. I see Newt in the latter role: wanting to be the professor and tell everyone else what they should do rather than actually getting it done. That is not what I’m looking for in an commander-in-chief.
As for Rick Santorum, there’s a lot about his conservative social stands that I like. But I disagree that Rick draws a sharper conservative contrast with Obama than Mitt Romney, that Rick is the “true conservative” in the race, or that Mitt’s having endorsed health care reform in Massachusetts is a handicap. David Axelrod, Obama’s Communications Director, doesn’t hesitate to point out the many differences between Mitt and Obama. Saying Mitt is in any way like Obama is clearly misleading. Santorum calling himself the “true conservative” is also misleading. There are serious arguments to be made that Santorum is not a fiscal conservative at all. And while he attacks Mitt on social issues (principally abortion and Romneycare), Santorum is just as much a convert to the pro-life movement as Mitt is, and Mitt has made it very, very clear that he is both pro-life and intends to repeal Obamacare. When Santorum claims he “never supported the individual mandate,” that’s not true. He supported Mitt Romney as the “true conservative” candidate in 2008, after Romneycare was adopted. Rick’s conversion on health care reform came very recently, and very opportunistically. And we should not forget that Santorum’s endorsement of liberal Arlen Specter is what allowed Obamacare to pass in the first place, since Specter cast the deciding vote. Rick’s habit of compromising his principles has already harmed our country enough.
Meanwhile, in my mind, Mitt has a number of strengths that make him the compelling choice.
Mitt has decades of true executive experience, something unmatched in any other candidate. Mitt has been a governor. He has been a CEO. He led the Olympic games. Mitt’s executive experience has also often been leading organizations needing a turnaround. He’s credited with saving the 2002 Olympics. He’s credited with saving Bain Consulting. He’s credited with balancing the budget in Massachusetts without raising tax rates.
He’s also credited with adopting what was, at the time, a conservative solution to Massachusetts’ health care problem of free riders costing the state $1 billion a year: requiring them to buy their own insurance or contribute to the costs they imposed on the health care system. Now, Mitt can’t help that Obama took Mitt’s idea that passed with bipartisan support in Massachusetts and tortured it into something different at the Federal level. But Mitt has made it very clear that Obamacare must go. We’ve only seen the beginning of its intrusion into our personal lives if it’s left standing. And worse, it will cost trillions more than anticipated. Mitt knows this better than anyone, since he’s studied the issue, and is best equipped to make this case to the American people.
Mitt Has Vision.
When it comes to vision, Mitt has also been very clear. He wants to restore America to its position as the “city on the hill,” the model for the world in values and democracy, not a country that apologizes for its greatness, but takes its responsibilities on the world stage seriously. I’ve heard him repeat that “Freedom has no greater friend than a strong America.” Mitt’s vision for the United States is of a country where opportunity abounds, not handouts. He’ll help create a business climate conducive to entrepreneurship and risk-taking, not government coddling and safety nets. If we want to have the possibility to succeed, we have to have the possibility of failure. Success of one enterprise, like Apple and Google, allows everyone to benefit by creating plentiful jobs. A handout society only discourages innovation and work and making efforts to get ahead, in turn killing jobs. Mitt knows innovation is what creates jobs. Unfortunately Barack Obama’s vision has been to stifle innovation. It’s time for a change.
Mitt can balance the budget.
One of the key areas requiring change is balancing the Federal budget. Barack Obama has had 3 years to make progress and has failed miserably. Mitt Romney understands the risk and is a master at cutting budgets. If you want fiscal responsibility, Mitt Romney is your man. Think we need to shrink the size of government to best use your tax dollars? Turn to the guy whose career is about efficiency and holding people accountable for performance.
More Information You May Not Know About Rick Santorum.
As for Rick Santorum, you may want to look at the series of articles that have appeared here on mittromneycentral or on the Unravel The Sweater website. But just a few issues that give me serious pause:
1. He’s a big government spender.
(Sorry, I just had to use this graphic again!)
If you think Obama’s spending is bad, you really need to consider whether Santorum could ever be your nominee. Remember Santorum lost his last re-election bid in 2006 at a time when the GOP in Congress was admittedly unpopular. Why? According to our 2008 nominee John McCain, the GOP wasn’t acting very much like the GOP back then. They were spending much more than they should have, and Rick Santorum was a key part of that problem.
This from Erick Erickson, a writer who is by no means Mitt’s best friend, as reported at American Vision News:
I and some friends, none of us Romney fans, have set about exploring Santorum’s record since Wednesday morning. Here now is a non-exhaustive list of what we have found. It does not even include his support for No Child Left Behind, Medicare Part D, debt ceiling increases, funding the bridge to nowhere, refusing to redirect earmark allocations to disaster relief along the Gulf Coast post Katrina, etc.
This is not the record of a man committed to scaling back the welfare state or the nanny state. Had he been up for re-election in 2010 instead of 2006, this is the record of a man who the tea party movement would have primaried.
A very long list of big-spending offenses follows the quote.
Just yesterday I was reading another article on Politico estimating that if Rick Santorum had had his way on a Medicare amendment he proposed, it would have cost taxpayers over $400 billion. That’s not fiscal conservatism. It’s irresponsible. And worse, it’s par for the course for Rick, and no clear contrast with Barack Obama.
2. Rick is a “Quid Pro Quo” politician.
Many people hate politicians because of the “you scratch my back, I’ll scratch yours” mentality. The people put them in a position of trust, and yet they benefit from that position and become much richer than the rest of us. So why would Rick, a Republican, support a $400 billion medicare amendment? This article in the New York Times from January makes it clear. He was scratching someone’s back. A certain someone that scratched his when he was excused from the Senate by his home state by 18 points, turning Rick from a “paycheck to paycheck” Senator to someone pulling down an average of about $1 million per year after leaving Congress (involuntarily).
The New York times recites the facts:
[Rick Santorum] sponsored at least two Senate bills and pushed to amend a mammoth Medicare overhaul to include the extra spending, which would have benefited Universal Health Services, a Pennsylvania-based hospital management company with facilities in Puerto Rico. If it seems at odds with the small-government philosophy Mr. Santorum now espouses in his presidential campaign, it was in line with his legislative efforts to help businesses in his state.
And some of those businesses were happy to return the favor.
Within months of leaving the Senate, Mr. Santorum joined the board of Universal Health Services, where he collected $395,000 in director’s fees and stock options before resigning last year. He also became a consultant to Consol Energy, after years of advocating drilling and extraction policies helpful to the company, a Pennsylvania gas and coal producer. And he consulted for the American Continental Group, a lobbying firm whose clients won earmarks he sponsored.
Sound familiar? It’s the same revolving door from Capitol Hill to big-money paid lobbying that Newt Gingrich benefited from. The NYT continues:
When he left office he was not especially wealthy, but records show he wasted little time fashioning a lucrative post-government career based largely on income from businesses that had benefited from his work in Congress.
Certainly, Mr. Santorum would not be the first politician to take the revolving door to greener pastures in the private sector. But a look at his record both in and out of the Senate finds overlaps between the two, suggesting that connections he made while in office helped soften the sting of his unexpected re-election defeat.
A financial disclosure report Mr. Santorum filed last August as part of his presidential campaign shows the full extent of his newfound wealth. He earned a total of more than $1 million in the previous 18 months from several jobs, including a fellowship with a conservative research organization, serving as a commentator for Fox News and a handful of consulting contracts, as well as income from rental properties in Pennsylvania.
The campaign has repeatedly highlighted Mr. Santorum’s humble Pennsylvania roots — he is the grandson of a coal miner — and sought to portray him as a champion of working people. Indeed, he was one of the poorer members of the Senate and by his own admission was living paycheck to paycheck at times. But by the time his Senate career drew to a close, he had become an emblem for some of a pay-to-play culture on Capitol Hill.
In 2006, Mr. Santorum led all federal candidates in contributions from lobbyists and their family members, taking in roughly $500,000, nearly 40 percent more than the next closest candidate, Senator George Allen, a Virginia Republican, according to data compiled by the Center for Responsive Politics. That tightknit relationship could make it difficult for him to appeal to Tea Party members and other voters yearning for a candidate free of inside-the-Beltway taint.
3. He’s only conveniently socially conservative.
Without running for president, Rick Santorum’s relevance to keep landing lobbying gigs would wane. It’s already been six years since he left office. His contacts are becoming less relevant, his name less recognized. Without running for president, he would be unemployed. Now he’ll have a great book deal and may be able to get his own Fox TV show like Mike Huckabee did. But to have a rationale for a campaign, he needed to find a niche in the panoply of candidates. It happened to be to the right, frankly succeeding principally based on fear, uncertainty and doubt about Mitt Romney and, in many cases, Mitt’s religion. In watching many of his ads, Rick Santorum has been the source of half- and non-truths about Mitt, the only reason for which is to advance Rick’s personal objectives. I don’t really believe he worries about our country as much as his own bottom line. With Mitt, it’s clear, as stated in Politico, it’s not about the money.
4. Rick Santorum is unelectable. While I may have some sympathy for his conservative views (even if I doubt his altruism), many either disagree entirely or, even if they do agree, don’t want their president focused on those issues. Only the most conservative believe contraception to be a legitimate topic for presidential politics (leaving aside the issue of religious liberty). Still, Rick keeps bringing up that and other topics that will lose him votes among those key swing voters in the middle. Witness his melt-down in Puerto Rico. He makes a statement that fits in with his conservative views in Puerto Rico about use of English and he loses the Puerto Rico primary (despite claiming the title of being PR’s favorite senator) by a 10:1 margin (over 80% of the vote for Mitt vs. 8% for Rick). Do I think Rick would say something in the general election to lose those independent votes, perhaps like what he said a couple weeks ago that the idea of separation of church and state makes him want to vomit? Absolutely.
For more reasons why a Santorum nomination is problematic, see this article.
At the end of the day for me, though, much of my opinion about Mitt Romney comes from the fact I’ve met him and I trust him. He gets attacked for not being approachable or being too wealthy. In my view I want someone successful to run the government, so “too wealthy” just isn’t relevant. It’s not widely known but he gave away all the money he inherited from his father, so what he’s living on is purely from his own work. In other words, if he’s rich, it’s because he’s succeeded at his own efforts and is the epitome of the American dream. The rap of not being approachable is just a naturally reserved and humble nature. He’s not in this game because he thrives on the limelight, which is what makes it easier for Newt Gingrich, Rick Santorum and Barack Obama to appear more relaxed. Mitt is in it to help fix the problems Barack Obama has caused or perpetuated.
I’m unconvinced Rick Santorum really believes what he says. And I’m unconvinced he could win, or that if he did win, he’d know how to fix the mess we have on our hands. Meanwhile, I believe in Mitt Romney’s vision for America. I believe he has the proven track record to be able to fix the mess we’re in. As a result I find him the most compelling choice for president, as do many, many more republican leaders than do Rick Santorum. Illinois, let’s give him the chance.
One Last Plea Based on Practicality…
Much has been made of Mitt’s 2:1 lead on Santorum in the delegates, and over 1 million lead in popular vote. Still, Santorum and Gingrich continue in this race because of close finishes, giving them the hope they may, if not be able to get the nomination outright themselves, be able to stop Mitt and hope to extract a pound of flesh at the convention, maybe even a nomination through some convoluted back-room process. We need to stop this thinking in its tracks. Since Mitts 2:1 trouncing of Santorum on Super Tuesday, he has only extended his delegate lead due to superior execution and leadership. A GOP convention without a nominee would be a disaster. While Mitt spent money in each state fighting off ultimately unsuccessful challengers, Obama would be waiting in the wings with his untouched war chest, ready to rumble. Santorum cannot now win without a near impossible turn of fortune (he would need to win, by last count, over 65% of remaining delegates, while having lost to Romney 2:1 to date). Gingrich is even further back. But they could possibly prevent Mitt from being the clear winner before the convention. Illinois, we need to end this thing now. A vote for Santorum at this point is the equivalent of a vote for Barack Obama. Mitt is not only the best choice, he’s the only real choice. Mitt’s conservative, experienced, and ready. Let’s help him win Illinois and give the GOP the best chance of restoring our country and repealing Obamacare in 2012.