It is no doubt a sad commentary on my social life that I spent Saturday evening watching bits of Mike Huckabee’s forum at which GOP candidates were questioned by undecided voters in Charleston, S.C. But I’m willing to admit it and want to comment on Mitt Romney’s first question and his response.
The question came from a woman who wanted to know what Romney would do about the collapsed housing market and what actions he would take to ”restore” the “right” of citizens to own a home. As a renter, I was shocked. Are my rights being trampled because I don’t own a house? Should I contact one of those lawyers who advertise on TV for people suffering (or not) from mesothelioma and see if they will represent me?
Romney gave the right answer — something to the effect that he would promote a thriving economy so people could buy houses and that he believed in getting the government out of the housing market. He didn’t pander, but he was subtle. Still, I kept wishing for a little more red meat: There is no right to own a house. Of course, the media would have spun such a reply as “Mitt Romney who likes to fire people now wants to kick you out of your house!” Nevertheless, I wonder: If, say, Newt Gingrich had gotten this question, might he have been able to create a mini–Sister Souljah moment, challenging the very premise of the question?
Since I flipped off the TV before Gingrich came on — I find myself unable to look at him just now — I don’t know how Gingrich handled his own questions. But I think that, in Romney’s low-key response, I saw what keeps so many people from embracing Romney: They may think it’s about issues or because he isn’t conservative enough, but I believe it is more stylistic. In these bad times, there is a desire for a standard bearer who exudes passion and serves red meat. There is a feeling that the times call for more pugnacious rhetoric. But think about it: We elected somebody mostly on the basis of his rhetoric last time. How’s that working out?
That said, when Romney was asked by another woman why conservatives should vote for him, he missed a golden opportunity. Romney should have recalled that he vetoed a bill to fund embryonic-stem-cell research while governor of Massachusetts and, at the same time, wrote a piece for the Boston Globe saying he was pro-life. South Carolina was the place to mention this.