Thomas Sowell: Romney's Got the Money, But Newt's Got the Vision

Mitt Romney has won the Illinois primary. But, the turnout of voters was dismally low. Given an incumbent Democratic president with an abysmal record, why aren't Republicans turning out in droves to vote in primary states for the man who many say is the "inevitable" nominee?

Conservative economist Thomas Sowell, author of Intellectuals and Society, recently challenged the notion that Mitt Romney is the “inevitable” Republican nominee, and, in doing so, the many pundits who have essentially told Newt Gingrich to drop out of the race “for the good of the Republican party.”

Dr. Sowell, a Harvard graduate and current senior fellow at the Hoover Institute, writes, “It is truer in this election than in most that ‘it takes a candidate to beat a candidate.’ And that candidate has to offer both himself and his vision. Massive ad campaigns against rivals is not a vision.”

Dr. Sowell believes that Newt Gingrich is the candidate who has a vision for the nation and who can debate President Obama. The president, Dr. Sowell says, will get the benefit of much free advertising simply because he is president and has an adoring media who will paint him in the most flattering light possible. Dr. Sowell writes:

Regardless of what the polls or the pundits say about Mitt Romney's chances of winning the Republican nomination, the conditions that made him the front runner in the primaries are the direct opposite of the conditions for the general election. The biggest single reason why Governor Romney is the front runner is that he has had the overwhelming advantage in money spent and in "boots on the ground" running his campaign in states across the country.

Mitt Romney may actually be in partial agreement with Dr. Sowell on this point. On Sunday Mr. Romney had an exchange with Fox News’ Bret Baier, who pointed out that, given the relative amounts of money each candidate has had to spend in the primaries thus far, Gov. Romney has spent a total of $26.14 per vote, former Speaker Newt Gingrich, $15.48 per vote, and Sen. Rick Santorum, $5.14 per vote.

Mr. Baier asked Gov. Romney, “You’ve recently criticized Sen. Rick Santorum for being an ‘economic lightweight,’ but, purely from a business perspective, Governor, isn’t he getting a lot of votes for his money?” Mr. Romney responded, “The GOP needs a nominee who has the capacity and the organization to raise money to be competitive.”

But, to Dr. Sowell, money just cannot supplant vision. He asserts that a nominee will not be able to oust an incumbent president simply with funding and advertising. He writes, "How does anyone ever defeat a sitting president then? They do it because they have a message that rings and resonates. The last Republican to defeat a sitting president was Ronald Reagan. He was the only Republican to do so in the 20th century."

Diminishing the value of our poll-addicted political culture, Dr. Sowell reminds us that, at one point during the Jimmy Carter-Ronald Reagan election campaign, Carter led Reagan with 58 percent to 40 percent in the polls.

“The question is not which Republican looks better against Barack Obama in the polls today, before the general election campaign begins. The question is which Republican can take the fight to Barack Obama…” Dr. Sowell writes.

He believes the reason why Gov. Romney cannot take this fight to President Obama is RomneyCare. Dr. Sowell argues, “The biggest fighting issue for Republicans is ObamaCare. Can the author of RomneyCare as governor of Massachusetts make that an effective issue by splitting hairs over state versus federal mandates?”

Dr. Sowell asserts that perhaps the primary issue of both health care laws is that of freedom, manifested in the individual mandate’s intrusion in personal liberty. According to him, it matters little that Gov. Romney intruded on the personal freedom of Massachusetts citizens through the individual mandate, and President Obama did so on the federal level. He contends that Gov. Romney has not extricated himself from the cloud of controversy surrounding RomneyCare, and that whatever funding he has will not be able to undo this.

Mitt Romney does not generally exhibit ease with the more non-economic, “heart of the nation” national issues, a factor that likely affects his inability to convey a vision for the country that goes beyond what a CEO of a company might put forward. As Thomas Sowell recently told Fox Business News’ Neil Cavuto, “I’m not at all impressed with how successful Romney has been in private industry. He’s not running for a job in private industry.”

Dr. Sowell shares deep concerns that, using his current limited set of tools, Mitt Romney will be unable to unseat President Obama. Referencing the radical philosophy of the president and his early mentors, Thomas Sowell sees an urgent need for a Republican nominee who, first and foremost, can inspire Americans, with his vision, to get out and vote. He warns of the danger that looms ahead with another Obama term, specifically the liberal judges who will be appointed to the Supreme Court, affecting the nation through their decisions for decades to come.

Dr. Sowell admittedly believes that this year’s entire field of Republican nominees is a gamble. But, he reasons, “Whomever the Republicans choose as their candidate is going to have to run against both Barack Obama and the pro-Obama media. Newt Gingrich has shown that he can do that. “

Viewing Mitt Romney as a candidate many cautious Americans may perceive to be the “inevitable” nominee, Dr. Sowell suggests, “Sometimes caution can be carried to the point where it is dangerous. When the Super Bowl is on the line, you don't go with the quarterback who is least likely to throw an interception. You go with the one most likely to throw a touchdown pass.”


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