Christopher Rants, the minority leader of the Iowa House of Representatives, is a declared Romney supporter for the Republican caucus. With the Iowa caucus in thirty-some days, and a debate tonight, the former speaker of the Iowa house took a few quick questions from National Review Online editor Kathryn Lopez this morning.
Kathryn Jean Lopez: What are Iowa conservatives going to be watching for tonight during the YouTube debate (besides talking snowmen)?
Christopher Rants: I’m honestly not sure. There are so many of these televised debates this year, I think most Iowans want to see them face to face. Perhaps the Des Moines Register debate next month being the exception.
Lopez: Why did you sign on with Romney? Any regrets?
Rants: Long answer/short: He’s a problem solver. I don’t know what the unexpected critical issue facing the president will be in 2011 — the world moves so fast now, so I want someone I trust to find the right solution. I went out last year and visited all the top candidates (some of whom are no longer in the race) with a list of 20 questions (10 policy, 10 campaign strategy). Mitt had the best answers. My hunch is, of the 10 policy, few will be asked in the YouTube debate.
And “no,” no regrets.
Lopez: Is there any one guy who needs to make the sale before Christmas or all bets are off?
Rants: Fred Thompson — the guy’s best days were all pre-announcement. That’s not good. He has the greatest distance to go — so unless there is a Law and Order marathon over New Year’s, he better make his move by the 25th.
Lopez: What’s your Huckabee prediction? Is he a true threat to your guy?
Rants: Huckabee is picking up significant support, so yeah he’s a threat. But the caucuses always tighten up. Look at George W. Bush eight years ago. Despite his national front-runner status and ballot share, his caucus win wasn’t very large. I think Huckabee’s growth is attributable to the fact he’s been relatively unscathed in the process so far. Social conservatives see he’s pro-life, etc. — and everytime you turn around he’s on cable news sounding conservative — but no one has taken a look at his fiscal record yet. We aren’t all watching YouTube for old speeches (yes, I think his are quite damning). If the media starts to examine his record as he moves into the top tier, as they have the others, I think he may not fare as well.
Lopez: Why can Romney beat Hillary? Can any of the others?
Rants: I think Romney is the only one who can. And the polls are starting to show it. He has been the most scrutinized candidate and his stock just keeps going up. Seriously, two Newsweek cover stories that were thinly veiled hit pieces — who else has been vetted that way? The thing is, Iowa Republicans don’t always put “electability” at the top of their checklist. It’s on there, but not at the top. I think Rudy is a disaster for the party, he might personally fare well enough, but his positions will turn off so much of the base; even if it’s only 5-10-percent that stays home he kills GOP down-ballot races. Huckabee will get shredded by the Clintons — they know his Arkansas record better than anyone, and next to him, the Bill/Hill days suddenly look respectable — I mean they weren’t asking friends to furnish their house when they left office.