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March, 10th 2009

Is Mitt Romney the only adult left standing among the 2012 Republican presidential hopefuls?

– Liz Mair

Longtime readers will know I haven't traditionally considered myself a big fan of former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney.  You can find columns on this site dating from 2006 and 2007 in which I criticized his health care plan harshly.  Recently, items like this and this have appeared, which testify to ongoing problems.  RomneyCare has, indeed, historically been the policy most associated with Romney with which I have taken the most issue-- though there are also others I find problematic, and this is probably why he wasn't my first or second personal choice for the GOP presidential nomination last year (though I hasten to point out that had he won it, I would have gone to bat for him happily).  Still, I must say that upon a cursory read of this, I found myself more nodding than not:

For a while, it looked like Mitt Romney would become more a figure of ridicule than promise. Stiff, square, and allegedly two-faced, the former Massachusetts governor was a triple-punchline target of late-night comics.

But now, with a more statesmanlike bearing and some measured criticisms of the Obama administration, Romney suddenly seems like the only adult left standing among the 2012 Republican presidential hopefuls. [intro]

[...]

It's unlikely that Romney could have helped the GOP avoid defeat, and the financial collapse in the midst of the fall campaign would have cast unflattering attention on Romney's associations with investors and bankers.

But the focus on economic issues that followed the campaign actually played to Romney's strengths. The former head of a private-equity firm, Romney has been one of the few Republicans to go beyond anti-pork rhetoric and talk in depth about economic issues. (emphasis mine)

True, and true.  Well, sort of... Among the top-mentioned names, I would say that Romney does look more an adult than a lot of the others, and he certainly has been a credible voice on economic issues.  What's more, I suspect that will continue to be the case, and for as long as he is and avoids what the Globe dubs "Palinesque us-against-them rhetoric," and coming off as "a wannabe populist in a thousand-dollar suit," he'll probably feature higher on the list of potential 2012 candidates I'd consider supporting than you might think.

But following a similar line to what I mentioned on Ed Morrissey's show earlier (the GOP does lack a single, unifying leader right now, and that's just fine because we need a lot of leaders and in fact we have lots, including some who aren't at the forefront of everyone's mind), there may be a lot of names on that list that people aren't even focusing on right now.  So, setting aside a debate over what one thinks about names commonly mentioned in conjunction with the number 2012, it is a tad presumptious to say that Romney is literally "the only adult left standing among the 2012 Republican presidential hopefuls" as a potentially quite broad class.  Though Romney's looking better (and more adult) to me now than he did in the run-up to 2008... and so are others like Minnesota Governor Tim Pawlenty and (especially, in my view) Utah Governor Jon Huntsman, for what that's worth.

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