National Review / Digital
Romney’s the One
Why the former Massachusetts governor deserves the GOP nomination


Even though nobody has yet cast a vote in the primaries, Republicans are increasingly resigned to Gov. Mitt Romney’s winning the party’s presidential nomination. Every week he gets a few more endorsements from Republican officeholders. He has never had a commanding lead in the polls, but one by one the other candidates who have occupied the top tier with him — first Rep. Michele Bachmann, then Gov. Rick Perry, then Herman Cain — have fallen back out of it. The current surge for Newt Gingrich looks like one last fling before Republicans settle down with Romney.

Republicans should not be gloomy about this prospect. Romney isn’t merely the candidate who is likely to win the Republican primaries. He’s the candidate who should win them. That’s why he’s likely to win.

We all know the knocks on Romney. His health-care plan in Massachusetts was Obamacare in one state. He’s a flip-flopper. Inauthentic. His conservative detractors say he’s the establishment/moderate candidate — or worse. (Actual Thanksgiving conversation in the Ponnuru home: Conservative brother-in-law: “So, which of these characters are you supporting?” Me: “I think Romney’s the best of the bunch.” Him: “I didn’t know you were a Democrat.”)

It’s true that Romney took a sharp right turn when he moved from state to national politics. But it’s also true that in 2008 he was the candidate behind whom Rush Limbaugh and Mark Levin, among other conservative notables, said that the conservative movement should rally in order to stop John McCain from getting the nomination. He has not moved left since that time. His positions on policy questions are almost all the same as they were then. On a few issues he has moved right: He now favors a market-oriented reform to Medicare, for example.

If Romney was to McCain’s right then, he is still. He’s to George W. Bush’s right, too. Bush never came out for the Medicare reform Romney has endorsed. Bush never said that Roe v. Wade should be overturned, either. Romney has. Romney’s long list of policy advisers includes people who are, within their fields, roughly in sync with the politics of the Bush administration or to its right; almost nobody is significantly to its left.

If Mitt Romney becomes president, he will almost certainly be dealing with John Boehner as speaker of the House and Mitch McConnell as Senate majority leader. While they, too, have their conservative detractors, they are the most conservative congressional leaders Republicans have had in modern times, and they will exert a rightward influence on the Romney administration. If they send him legislation to repeal Obamacare, cut taxes, or reform entitlements, he will sign it where Obama would veto it. If at some other point in his presidency a liberal-run Congress sends him tax increases, he will veto them where Obama would sign. Compared with President Obama, a President Romney would do more to protect the defense budget.

A President Romney’s judicial nominees would be superior to President Obama’s simply because he would not be trying to stack the bench with liberal activists. But they are likely to far exceed that low bar. Each Republican president since the Nixon-Ford era has nominated a higher percentage of conservatives as justices to the Supreme Court than his predecessor. That’s mostly a testament to the growth and development of the conservative legal network. Romney is likely to look for nominees whom conservative lawyers like — Robert Bork is a top adviser — who are professionally accomplished, and who cannot be portrayed as extreme. If Republicans hold the Senate they will almost certainly be confirmed. If they do not, they will probably be confirmed.

Romney’s regulatory agencies will be relatively restrained. His appointees to the National Labor Relations Board will not punish Boeing for locating a plant in a right-to-work state. He will act, within the limits of his legal authority, to keep the Environmental Protection Agency from imposing expensive restrictions on carbon emissions. He will reinstate conscience protections for pro-life health-care workers.

It’s true that almost any Republican president, not just Romney, would do these things. But that’s the point. The Republican party now features a remarkable degree of programmatic consensus. The entire field wants to cut corporate tax rates, convert Medicaid into block grants, and (the asterisk candidacy of Gary Johnson aside) protect unborn human life. Even Jon Huntsman, the candidate positioned farthest left in the field, favors these policies. None of them enjoyed such uniform support in previous primaries, and some of them had none.

December 19, 2011    |     Volume LXIII, No. 23

  • It’s Europe vs. the Europeans.
  • It requires blocking the world court’s overreach.
  • Now is no time for more force reductions in Afghanistan.
  • A well-intentioned New Jersey law does more harm than good.
  • China’s experience with high-speed rail provides a cautionary tale.
  • How the EPA is killing America’s energy industry.
  • The Nobel peace committee divides its 2011 prize wisely.
  • Beware Wall Street efforts to reoccupy the Republican party.
  • Why the former Massachusetts governor deserves the GOP nomination
  • A 34-year-old GOP star eyes an Ohio Senate seat
  • The U.S. must settle for nothing less than checkmate.
Books, Arts & Manners
  • Victor Davis Hanson reviews Conquered into Liberty: Two Centuries of Battles along the Great Warpath that Made the American Way of War, by Eliot A. Cohen.
  • John Derbyshire reviews The Better Angels of Our Nature: Why Violence Has Declined, by Steven Pinker.
  • Kyle Smith reviews Fear and Loathing at Rolling Stone: The Essential Writing of Hunter S. Thompson, edited by Jann S. Wenner.
  • Randy Boyagoda reviews The Marriage Plot, by Jeffrey Eugenides.
  • Ross Douthat reviews The Descendants.
  • Richard Brookhiser tours his stores.
The Long View  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  
Athwart  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  
Poetry  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  
Happy Warrior  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .