By Joe Boyles
Last week, Floridians went to the polls to select their preference for the Republican nomination to face off this fall against President Obama. While Madison Republicans favored former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, the state overwhelmingly voted to support former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney for the nomination. The other two candidates still in the race, Rick Santorum and Ron Paul were relegated to also-ran status.
I cast my vote for Mitt Romney. Let me explain why and see if it makes any sense to you.
To my way of thinking, the two most vexing problems that our nation faces is a moribund economy (2011 GDP grew at an anemic 1.7 percent) and out-of-control spending by power-drunk politicians. This has led to 12 million unemployed or under employed Americans and a debt crisis that threatens to swamp our economy. As I look at the field of presidential candidates, I’m looking for someone who is equipped to provide the leadership to address this twin-headed monster.
It certainly isn’t Barack Obama; he’s a major contributor to the problem — hardly the solution. The Washington political elites like Gingrich and Santorum haven’t had the economic and business experience to prove they are equipped to meet the challenge. I would say the same about Paul and Bachman although they seem to recognize the problem more than most. While Huntsman never caught fire, Perry seemed to be lost in the wilderness of the national campaign. At one point, I had some hope for Herman Cain but other things got in the way and derailed his campaign. Gary Johnson and Tim Pawlenty are forgotten memories.
By process of elimination, I’m down to my last straw or in this case, candidate. That would be Mitt Romney. What is to like and what is not?
I like the idea that he comes from a business background. As the CEO of Bain Capital, Romney spent nearly two decades managing one of our nations’ largest private venture capital firms. Bain looked at both existing businesses and new ventures for potential to invest their capital. These were businesses that required new management or better organization or a boost to turn their fortunes around. Bain had an amazing track record during Romney’s tenure of picking winners and losers.
In the late 1990s as Salt Lake City was preparing to host the Winter Olympic Games, they faced a royal mess. The Mormons selected one of their own, Mitt Romney, to sort through the wreckage and put things right. He did an amazing job in less than two years and the games were a roaring success. He’s a problem solver.
In 2002, he was elected governor of liberal Massachusetts and served one term. He did a lot of things right in a difficult political environment. Late in his single term, he signed into law a universal health care law for Massachusetts which has been dubbed Romneycare, the model for our 2011 national Obamacare law. Romneycare is his biggest stumbling block, in my opinion, and he’s going to have to do a better job of explaining it and his vision of healthcare in order to draw distinction between his and Obama’s ideas.
Many southerners are naturally suspicious of anyone from Massachusetts. I share your mistrust. My ancestors arrived on the shores of the Bay State in 1638 and left two generations later. This was the same time when the good citizens of Salem were burning witches. As best we can tell, this historical footnote is merely a coincidence, but you never know. If I were to return to Taxachusetts today, I would be a fish-out-of-water. As far as lingering charges of witchcraft are concerned, the statute of limitations has passed – I think.
Before I close this column, let me say something about Newt Gingrich. I first met him in 1983 when he spoke to my class at the Air Command and Staff College. We were very impressed with the young congressman, but before long, I learned that he had a reputation as a political “bomb thrower.” Good revolutionaries like Newt do not equate to good governance. History tells us that some of the great American revolutionaries like Thomas Paine, Patrick Henry and Samuel Adams disappeared in its aftermath.
Three and a half years ago as we came to the 2008 general election, I realized that Republicans had made a fatal error. We nominated a national security candidate, John McCain, who knew next to zero about economic matters. But following the failure of Lehman Brothers on September 17th, the economy was the only thing that really mattered. With his background, Mitt Romney could have explained the issue and addressed the problem in the final six weeks of the campaign, but McCain was lost. I don’t know that Romney could have beaten Obama that year, but he certainly was better equipped to oppose him considering the primary issue at hand.
That was then and this is now. The economy is still the key issue although not in crisis stage like it was in late 2008. Obama’s policies, buoyed by tired Keynesian economics, have failed miserably. Obama’s economic policies are akin to a runner with one foot nailed to the surface, simply running in circles. Mitt Romney can explain this and show that, with the proper free-market approach, the runner can be liberated to run a good race. He’s the best man, in my opinion, available now to lead our nation and the world out of economic quagmire.