I’ve always been ambivalent about this field. I’ve never been wildly anti-Newt nor pro-Romney, or vice versa. I have long thought that Romney would be the best candidate to beat Obama, and I still believe that — but just barely. His Al Gore like inability to break through his android shell is really grating on me. It’s unfair, of course. I think Romney’s an honest, smart and decent man who would probably make a fine president. As I’ve been writing for a very long time, Romney has an authentic inauthenticity problem. In other words, he seems like he’s faking things even when he’s not. He may take positions he doesn’t hold in his heart, but all politicians do that. The problem is that the vast majority of the time he’s no more passionate or convincing about the positions he almost surely does hold in his heart.
More to the point, fair doesn’t have anything to do with it. Politics is about persuasion and he’s simply not persuasive. I’m rapidly losing confidence that as a general election candidate he would be able to win over the crucial voters he would need to seal the deal. If he’s the nominee, I hope I’m wrong.
But this is the moment where Romney either rises to the occasion to prove he has what it takes to win in the fall or he doesn’t. I’m not talking about his willingness to “go negative.” That’s not his problem. He’s got the will. The question is whether he’s got the skill. We all cheer at the end of Rudy when he finally gets to play in a Notre Dame game. But there’s a reason why Rudy never started. He had the heart, he just didn’t have the natural talent. I’ve come to believe that all the talk about how Romney isn’t a “real conservative” (or a “real Christian”) is a symptom of that underlying shortcoming. If he was a better politician, most of the opposition to Romney would fall away. That he’s not a better politician probably speaks well of him as a human being, but what the hell does that have to do with anything?
Gingrich still strikes me as a vastly riskier proposition. We simply don’t know whether he’d be a better nominee or president. But he’s certainly proved he’s a better politician.