I have taken my time in settling on a GOP presidential candidate to support; more so than in past years, for a variety of reasons too time-consuming to mention. Also, I have been too lazy to write a post earlier announcing my pick. But at last, for all of those waiting with bated breath, I am ready to reveal my candidate.
It came down to Mitt Romney vs. Jon Huntsman for me. Both have attractive qualifications for the presidency; each is intelligent, experienced, sober and mature. I could in good conscience support either one in the general election. Considering Romney, it is clear that he is quite intelligent, very well-disciplined (perhaps too disciplined at times), a superb debater, and a savvy candidate, given all that he has learned from his 2008 run. He would give Barack Obama a run for his money, and given both the tenor of the times, and the fact that Romney is a better candidate, with a better organization, he stands, at least, a very respectable chance of becoming the next President of the United States.
I respect Romney’s Massachusetts record; while he was governor, the unemployment rate came down to 4.5%; a rate the rest of the country would love to achieve. I very much respect Romney’s business record; it is clear that he knows a lot about capitalism and private enterprise, and he would be well-positioned to implement policies that are friendly to the private sector, thus creating jobs, encouraging wealth creation, and growing the economy. On the issue of foreign affairs, Romney’s pronouncements have generally been sane and sober. He understands that he might well be president, and he has been quite good about being responsible with his rhetoric.
But there are instances of the Romney record that disturb me. His support for an individual mandate for health care reform in Massachusetts is a concern. Replicated on the national level, it would be fundamentally unconstitutional, and while the same constitutional concerns do not exist when it comes to discussing the implementation of the individual mandate in Massachusetts, the use of mandates still constitutes bad policy. Health care reform in Massachusetts has failed to control costs, and there has been little to no bang for the buck. Quite surprisingly, Romney at times does not do a good job at all in defending his stance on health care reform.
Romney’s comments on China’s involvement in currency manipulation, and his apparent willingness–mentioned more than once, in more than one venue–to engage China in a trade war ought to be a cause for concern. I am sure that Romney knows better, but that makes his misstep on this issue worse. I won’t be in the least bit surprised if Romney backtracks on this issue during the course of a general election campaign, but he never should have entertained the idea of engaging China in a trade war in the first place. Flip-flopping continues to be an issue with Romney; I wish that his standing in the polls would give him the courage to take some risks with his stances and public comments, so that we could get a better sense of who Romney is. At times, Romney has been willing to show intellectual bravery. But he needs to show more of it.
Now, let’s turn to Jon Huntsman. I have been a fan, and not without reason. His economic plan has won widespread and justifiable plaudits for the intellectual seriousness he displays in taking on the issues of economic growth, job creation, and reforming the tax code. He stood up to Mitt Romney when the latter called for a trade war with China over the issue of currency manipulation. Huntsman is a candidate of whom conservatives and libertarians can be very proud. His overall record is quite impressive, and when it comes to his specialty–foreign policy–he is especially good. Interestingly enough, my biggest disagreement with Huntsman is on the issue of foreign policy–Afghanistan, specifically–but I don’t expect to agree with my chosen presidential candidate on every issue, and even when we disagree, I am confident that Huntsman is the kind of person who will show the intellectual self-confidence to take dissenting views into account, and to change his mind when the facts change, or when someone happens along with a better argument. Readers will recall that I had the chance to interview Governor Huntsman, and he impressed me as being serious, intelligent, articulate, and well-informed on a host of issues. Perhaps these traits–plus his willingness to stand up to pure nonsense–help explain his appeal to Americans; Huntsman is widely seen as the Republican best positioned to beat President Obama in a general election.
Now, Mitt Romney won the New Hampshire primary going away, and Huntsman finished third behind Ron Paul. So what is the point of even considering Huntsman?
Well, the nomination may be 99.999% wrapped up, but it’s not wrapped up completely. And as the Boston Globe noted in its endorsement of Huntsman:
. . . even if Romney emerges as the nominee, it matters how he gets there. Already, the religious right, represented by Rick Santorum, and Tea Party activists, represented by Ron Paul, have pushed Romney in unwanted directions. In New Hampshire, Republican and independent voters have a chance, through Huntsman, to show him a sturdier model. Jon Huntsman would be a better president. But if he fails, he could still make Romney a better candidate.
Which is why there is no reason not to support him.
Jon Huntsman for President.