Mitt Romney’s weekend interview in the Wall Street Journal seems to add weight to conservative doubts about his candidacy.
Romney doesn’t seem to get it: the 2012 election is about the size and cost of government.
We already have a “smart” president with ambitious plans who thinks he knows better. That hasn’t worked for our economy, and has damaged trust in our democracy.
Romney says “America doesn’t need a manager,” but his plans reflect what the Journal euphemistically calls “positive technocratic thinking.”
Though Romney may be more “sober” than his rival Newt Gingrich (or, less charitably, more timid than the former Speaker), he evidently shares with Gingrich an enthusiasm for what the federal government could do, if only he were put in control.
Given that Ron Paul’s radical foreign policy is a non-starter, and that several other candidates–however well-meaning–could not manage the mundane task of qualifying for the Virginia ballot, or withstand the media scrutiny of a long campaign, Republicans are feeling new doubts about the current field.
They are all better than Obama; the question is–are they the best Republicans can offer?
As Republicans have wrestled with that question, a few have floated the idea of a “brokered convention,” at which the party’s nominee would be chosen through back-room negotiations and contested ballots instead of the pro forma roll calls of recent decades.
Given Romney’s struggle to provide the clear alternative to Obama that Americans so desperately need, the party should consider whether a brokered convention is feasible as a fallback option.
Here, then, are the top ten Republicans who could be nominated at a brokered convention. Some declined to run earlier, and should reconsider; all would provide a stronger contrast to President Obama than Romney or Gingrich is providing at the moment.
10. Rep. Eric Cantor
The Whip united the caucus against the disastrous stimulus in 2009. In the debt ceiling debate, he reportedly held out against new taxes in any final agreement. Moreover, he has made clear that his vision for the country’s future is plainly different from Obama’s.
9. Sen. Jim DeMint
The conservative stalwart has provided key support to Tea Party candidates, and has challenged the compromise politics of the Republican establishment.
8. Gov. Bobby Jindal
Recently elected in a landslide to a second term, he has fought political corruption and brought competence and leadership to a state long lacking both. Despite a rocky national TV debut in 2009, Jindal is a ruthless and effective campaigner.
7. Rep. Mike Pence
The Indiana all-star has the policy positions and the media profile that conservatives have beenseeking. He declined to run for president earlier this year, despite strong grassroots support, but could perhaps be persuaded to reconsider.
6. Gov. Mitch Daniels
An early favorite who also declined to run, the Indiana governor has boosted his state from deficit to surplus, and stagnation to job creation. Some conservatives are wary of his proposed “truce” on social issues, but would rally behind his fiscal leadership.
5. Sen. Marco Rubio
Rubio represents the best marriage of what Tea Party Republicans believe, and what traditional Republicans respect. He has declined to run for president–or even vice president–but, if he reconsidered, could help swing the Latino and Florida vote.
4. Gov. Chris Christie
The tough-talking New Jersey governor became a conservative hero when he stood up to public sector unions in restoring his state’s solvency–and he has taken on President Obama as well.
3. Rep. Paul Ryan
The House budget chair and “Conservative of the Year” famously confronted the president on Obamacare, but his main focus has been fiscal reform–including bipartisan proposals for fixing Medicare. He is also considered strong on social issues.
2. Gov. Sarah Palin
With a corruption-busting record, solid positions on the issues, and a big grassroots fan base, Palin would be a stronger contender than many in the field. She is a constant media target, but has found ways to speak directly to her supporters, and would excite passion in the race as no other candidate could.
1. Gov. Scott Walker
Targeted by the left, he has faced down a relentless public sector union onslaught. and put Wisconsin on a path to fiscal and economic recovery. He has Christie’s toughness–but with a quiet Midwestern delivery rather than a New Jersey swagger. Recently named “Governor of the Year,” Walker has the courage and experience to lead the nation.
There are other candidates who could do the job–former Florida governor Jeb Bush is one, for example, though his surname is still a burden in the first post-Bush presidential election.
Regardless, Republicans should consider a brokered convention unless the frontrunners improve their attack on Obama, because the mess that is the GOP primary isn’t just a disaster for the party, but also for a nation ready to hear the conservative message.
Today, even Democrats know that we can no longer afford big government and its obligations, and enough also realize that raising taxes will restrain the economic growth our country needs in order to build our future and balance the books.
Perhaps it would be easier if a Democrat–other than Obama–had the opportunity to take on the size of government, just as only a Republican like Nixon could go to China, and just as it was Democrat Bill Clinton who signed welfare reform into law in 1996.
Obama could have taken on entitlement reform, but chose not to, both because he wants to reshape government in a socialist mould, and because he is bound to allies who are busy enriching themselves. And he won’t change. Nor will he face a primary challenge, despite the fact that there are several other Democrats who would be better candidates.
So Americans–like it or not–are looking for the right Republican. Unfortunately, what the Grand Old Party has provided thus far is not particularly Grand, and Old in all the wrong ways–failing to challenge Obama’s 2008 vision of a vastly expanded government, while threatening to undo the Tea Party’s success in 2010.
There must be an alternative. And there are–several, in fact.