Sunday, February 03, 2008

One of the Power Line guys likes Mitt

Paul Mirengoff endorses Romney:

The rest of the Republican world has pretty much decided whether it prefers John McCain or Mitt Romney. Now, finally, I have too. Both candidates have major strengths and distinct weaknesses. Either would have my vote in November. But I believe Romney is the better choice.

This view may seem odd in light of the following
comment I made a few weeks ago:

Every time it looks like McCain will break away from the pack, I panic in anticipation of four years of watching him stick it to conservatives on a more than occasional basis. When things seem to be breaking Romney's way, I panic in anticipation of an electoral rout in November followed by four years of a Clinton or Obama presidency.

Surely the prospect of having McCain stick it to conservatives periodically is the lesser evil compared to a lop-sided Democratic victory followed by an utterly non-conservative Clinton or Obama regime.

But voting on the basis of electability is often a fool's errand. Right now, Romney looks like a long-shot in November. He should be an attractive candidate -- smart, knowledgeable, good looking, extremely articulate -- but he's run into voter resistance even among conservatives because of his flip-flops, possibly his religion, and a general failure to connect. If he overcomes these problems and defeats McCain the rest of the way, then he'll have done enough to establish his potential electability to my satisfaction. If he doesn’t, the issue will be moot.

Meanwhile, Republicans should not take too much comfort from McCain's performance in polls against Clinton and Obama this far from November. The McCain I saw in the California debate last week didn't look particularly electable. With the economy emerging as the overwhelmingly central issue in the campaign, with McCain's nasty streak increasingly on display, and with his reputation for straight-talk diminishing before our eyes, I'm not prepared to base a vote for the Senator on electability.

The decision thus comes down to policy and effectiveness. I give Romney the edge on both counts.

Rick Santorum says that when he was in the Senate, there were three parties -- the Democratic party, the Republican party, and the McCain party. This is an exaggeration, but it contains some truth. Think of McCain-Feingold, McCain-Kennedy, "McCain-Byrd" (the gang of 14 deal), and now McCain-Lieberman. On some of the most important issues of our time -- political speech, immigration, judicial nominations, taxation, and now climate change -- McCain has been more comfortable with liberal or centrist positions than with conservative Republican ones. Let’s not deceive ourselves into believing that this will change if McCain gains the highest office in the land. It’s far more likely that we’ll actually have a McCain party instead of just a McCain faction.

By the same token, we should not believe that, as president, Romney would be the same across-the-board conservative he's running as. But nothing in Romney's record as governor (as opposed to his record as a candidate for office in liberal Massachusetts) suggests that he won't govern as a reasonably reliable conservative. At a minimum, Romney will understand that there can be no "Romney party" -- any attempt by him to forge a "third way" by allying with the Democrats ultimately would leave him hopelessly isolated. McCain may be willing to accept that risk, but Romney surely isn't.

Finally, we get to the question of effectiveness and administrative ability. Romney has demonstrated these qualities throughout his career; McCain not so much. Yet, McCain is correct when he asserts his superiority over Romney in terms of foreign policy and national security experience, and when he takes credit for his role in denouncing the administration's approach in Iraq and leading the charge in favor of the surge. Though McCain misrepresents the facts about what Romney said on the subject, there’s no doubt that, where McCain led, Romney followed – and cautiously at that.

In the end, the choice boils down to two very different decisionmaking styles. Romney decides by immersion in "the data." McCain decides based on “instinct” – some combination of a few old-fashioned conservative values (keep government spending down and our defense strong); generalizations from his experience (e.g., torture didn't work on me, so waterboarding should be outlawed); and whatever he happens to pick up from people of various persuasions whom he happens to respect.

Instinct can trump data mining at times, especially with respect to decisions that fall within the decisionmaker's area of expertise. It did so with respect to the surge. However, as I put it a few days ago, "a president who consistently relies on instinct and pooh-poohs data is likely to make major mistakes. Unless one thinks McCain is a genius (and I don't), we'd probably be better off with Romney's approach to making decisions.”

So I end up favoring Romney. I suspect that many more Republicans favor McCain and, having taken this long to make up my mind, I certainly respect that point of view. And, while I’m fairly concerned about what a McCain presidency would look like, I intend to vote for McCain if he’s the Republican nominee.

The "McCain party" is plainly preferable to the Democratic party.

It amazes me the amount of hand wringing that some people have to do in order to come to what is transparently the correct decision.

Oh, and the part about the "McCain party" being better than the Democrat party. No it won't be. As I've said before better a stand up enemy who looks you in your eye and tells you that he is your enemy than a false friend who smiles at you then slits your throat while you sleep.