Peter Canellos of the Boston Globe has a fair piece today on the virtues and drawbacks of being Mitt Romney, businessman.
I referred to Romney as a Mr. Fix It over the weekend. You want that — it’s a skillset that did some good in Massachusetts and could do some good nationally — but you need to demonstrate more than that when you’re running for president and trying to appeal to a demoralized movement that’s pining for a new Reagan. People need to know you have that vision thing and they need to know you’ve got a solid grounding. That’s part of the reason why Jeb Bush went over so well at the Summit this weekend — he didn’t have to explain that he is conservative, he is confidently and comfortably conservative — and much of his governing emanated it. Romney, on the other hand, is still in a defensive position when he’s talking to conservatives (some of it fairly, some of it unfairly, but it’s a cloud that hangs) — and it doesn’t help that a number of his conservative claims to fame when he was governor did not end in case-closed victories (cloning, marriage…and a Clinton-adminstration governor now to do his own turnaround and -backing). Romney came across to people Saturday, I think, as a smart business guy who may be conservative. And one, yes, who didn’t go out on a limb on the biggest foreign-policy gamble of the moment (Iraq). People need more than what they got.
As hesitant (or worse) as some conservatives are about John McCain, he’ll get and deserve credit for being as adamant about the surge as he was if things get better in Iraq. And Rudy for all his issues will always have 9/11, which depending on where we are in a year or so, might be no small thing. Romney did impress with his Khatami moment as governor but that’s not going to get him elected president. Part of the disappointment with Romney Saturday was people wanting to be wowed by a potential next conservative leader and it just didn’t happen. Sure there were applause lines, but even Mike Huckabee got an “Amen” during his speech.
Jeb Bush did the war, the courts, spending, life … and he did it without sounding checklisty about it. He was confidently conservative and knows a leader has to rally — even if he’s not running this year. From many reports, Romney is whipping people up in Iowa, New Hampshire, and South Carolina — and he’s raising money and all the rest. That’s all important. But one disappointing night in a room packed with influential and active conservatives in D.C. will not go away even with a next well-covered excellently delivered speech. It’s going to take some consistent confidently conservative rallying. I (as you might imagine) think he’s capable of it — and not just because he’s a smart businessman — but time will tell.