The candidate I endorsed has withdrawn; now, whom do I pick?

As our long-term readers are aware, your editor endorsed Governor Rick Perry (R-TX) for the Republican Presidential nomination early on in the process. I still believe that Governor Perry is just the kind of man we need for President: a strong conservative with real executive experience, leading a state which has led the nation in job creation for several years.

Unfortunately, while Mr Perry might make a good President, it became apparent that he didn't make a good presidential candidate: he flubbed up in several debates, and even though his debate performances got much better toward the end, the damage had been done. And earlier today, Governor Perry dropped out of the race.

Perry Abandons Presidential Bid

By Carol E Lee And Neil King, Jr, THE WALL STREET JOURNAL

COLUMBIA, S.C.—Texas Gov. Rick Perry dropped out of the presidential race Thursday and threw his support behind Newt Gingrich for the Republican nomination.

Mr. Perry, speaking at a news conference, said he saw no viable path forward and was therefore suspending his campaign and endorsing Mr. Gingrich.

The endorsement came just as polls suggested that Mr. Gingrich was closing in on front-runner Mitt Romney in South Carolina ahead of the state's primary on Saturday.

Mr. Perry said that while he and Mr. Gingrich have had their differences, he believed Mr. Gingrich was the Republican candidate who best represented “bold and conservative leadership.”

“I believe Newt is a conservative visionary who can transform our country,” Mr. Perry said, with his wife, Anita, at his side. “We've had our differences, which campaigns inevitably have, and Newt is not perfect, but who among us is?”

Mr. Gingrich said he was humbled by Mr. Perry's endorsement and urged the governor's South Carolina supporters—while a small percentage of GOP voters—to support his candidacy.

More at the link.

I can't say that this is much of a surprise: Governor Perry has pretty much pinned whatever hopes he had of staging a comeback on the South Carolina primary, and it just wasn't happening for him.

For your editor, this leaves a bit of a quandary: with my preferred candidate out, whom should I support? When I was first looking at the candidates, I had three criteria in mind:

  1. Someone with strong executive experience;
  2. Someone with strong conservative values; and
  3. Someone who could defeat President Obama.

Using those three criteria, Rick Perry seemed to me to be the only man who fit all three. However, while it's possible that he could have beaten President Obama — something we'll never know now — one thing he couldn't do was beat the other Republican candidates.

We have just four candidates remaining: former Governor Mitt Romney (D-MA), former Representative Newt Gingrich (R-GA), former Senator Rick Santorum (R-PA), and Representative Ron Paul (R-TX).

Of those four, only Mitt Romney has any significant executive experience; none of the other three have ever run anything in their lives. However, Mr Romney lacks one thing that Messrs Gingrich and Santorum certainly have, a record of strong, conservative values. Dr Paul is certainly conservative on some things, but his isolationist world view is simply impractical.

Which of these four men can defeat President Obama? Of course, no one can know until the nominee actually takes on the President, but it is my judgement that Dr Paul simply could not. Ron Paul has raised some interesting issues, but, in my criteria, he fails on the first and third criteria, and is only partially in the second one. If he winds up winning the nomination, I will vote for him, but I know that President Obama would win re-election.

Of the remaining three, the conventional wisdom has Mr Romney as the one with the greatest probability of defeating the President, but the conventional wisdom has been wrong before. However, based upon what I've seen in the campaign thus far, one thing is clear: Mr Romney's campaign organization has shown itself to be superior to either Mr Gingrich's or Mr Santorum's, and really better than anyone else's. I'd note that only Mr Romney and Dr Paul qualified for the Virginia primary ballot, because the campaign organizations of the other candidates couldn't manage to meet a standard that Dennis Kucinich and Fred Thompson managed to meet in 2008; that speaks very poorly of their ability to defeat President Obama.

Right now, my only qualm with Governor Romney is that I have serious doubts about his conservative credentials. If you read his positions on his campaign website, they are fine, very much in line with conservative Republican ideas. But as a Senate candidate in Massachusetts, in 1994, he was specifically pro-abortion, and his 2006 “Commonwealth Care” state-run health care program in Massachusetts specifically provided state taxpayer support for abortions. Perhaps that was simply unavoidable in very liberal Massachusetts, but I do not like it, not one little bit.

However, I would note that then-Governor Ronald Reagan (R-CA), on July 14, 1967, signed the Therapeutic Abortion Act into law. Under that law, legal abortions in the Golden State rose from 518 in 1967 to over 100,000 per year. Governor Reagan believed that, had he vetoed the bill, his veto would have been overridden by the state legislature, and:

he decided to do what he could to make the bill less harmful, arguing for the insertion of certain language that eliminated its worst features and allowed for abortion only in rare cases — such a

s rape or incest, or where pregnancy would gravely impair the physical or mental health of the mother.

Naturally, the “mental health” exception was thoroughly abused, and became an exception for everything. Whether this article, written many years after the fact, is really accurate, or involves some postmortem scrubbing of President Reagan’s history I do not know. Would a veto have been over-ridden? We don’t know, because he never tried. If he was opposed to abortion then, and he believed it would have been worse had he vetoed the bill, could he have not let it become law without his signature? Maybe such a consideration never entered his mind.

And we have had a few other switches of position concerning abortion, with the elder George Bush being one of the more famous. The elder President Bush didn’t get much of an opportunity to do much on the issue, save with two Supreme Court appointments, and there he had one bad one — David Souter — and one truly excellent one, Clarence Thomas.

There were, however, rather more years between their switches than what we’ve seen with Governor Romney, who signed the Commonwealth Care Act into law in 2006, and was pro-life by 2007, when he started to run for the 2008 Republican presidential nomination. Is he pro-life, pro-abortion, or simply pro-convenience, his convenience? I simply do not know.

Now, if Messrs Gingrich or Santorum seemed to me like top-flight candidates, it would be an easy choice to back one of them. However, I have serious reservations about both. I live in the Keystone State, and I saw just how pathetically Senator Santorum campaigned in his failed 2006 re-election campaign, losing to Bob Casey. Mr Casey's had a political history in Pennsylvania, being the son of a former Governor, but Mr Casey, when he ran for the 2002 gubernatorial nomination, was trounced by Mayor Ed Rendell of Philadelphia. Mr Casey, now Senator Bob Casey (D-PA), was very beatable, but Senator Santorum couldn't do it. And if he couldn't beat Bob Casey, I have a difficult time seeing how he'd beat Barack Obama.

Which leaves Newt Gingrich. I clearly trust Mr Gingrich's stated political philosophy to actually be what he believes; I have few worries that Mr Gingrich, as President, would be a flip-flopper. But while Mr Gingrich was a true revolutionary leader, leading the Republicans from their forty years in the wilderness to the majorities in both Houses of Congress in the 1994 elections, in history, revolutionary leaders have often proved themselves to be far less capable of governing well once they win their revolutions.

So it was with Speaker Gingrich. The Republican-controlled 104th Congress accomplished some significant things . . . but Speaker Gingrich's leadership allowed President Clinton to take the credit for them. Where President Clinton decided to be strongly opposed to Speaker Gingrich's proposals, the President beat him like a drum. In 1998, when the Republicans were trying to impeach President Clinton, and the Speaker had an agreement from the Democrats for a censure of the President, Mr Gingrich went ahead with an impeachment that everybody in the country knew would not succeed, because removal of the President would have required the votes of twelve Democratic senators. That, to me, demonstrated very poor judgement. All that Mr Gingrich accomplished there was to lead the Republicans to a hitherto unexpected loss of seats in the 1998 elections. I am concerned that Rick Santorum has no executive experience, and might not be able to handle the job of President, but we've seen how Mr Gingrich handles real leadership responsibilities, and the answer is: not well. He wouldn't, he couldn't, be worse than President Obama in that regard, because our current President is simply inept, but a conservative President who can't achieve his goals isn't all that much of a plus for us.

Which brings me right back to Mitt Romney. I am unsure just how conservative he really is. However, there is a fourth point which gives me a lot of hope concerning the man: along with having been a successful governor, he was also a successful private businessman, and he rescued the 2002 Salt Lake City Winter Olympics from a near-crushing failure due to internal corruption. He understands business, he understands economics, and he understands what government needs to do to help our economy, and that's stay out of the way of free enterprise to the maximum extent possible. 83% of Americans in this country who have jobs work in the private sector, whether as sole proprietors, for small businesses or large corporations. If we want to have more jobs in this country, what we need to do is make this country as friendly as possible to free enterprise and the sector which actually creates new jobs. President Obama and the Democrats see corporations as just a source of tax dollars, but seem to turn up their noses at the idea that the private sector is where American jobs are; the denial of the permit for the Keystone XL pipeline clearly demonstrates that the President, after just a day less than three years in office, still doesn't understand where jobs are created, or just doesn't care. My guess is that Messrs Gingrich and Santorum would not have cancelled the pipeline either, but what they know from books and from reading about economics, Mr Romney knows from personal experience, from being in business.

I am not happy that Mr Romney is our best remaining candidate, but, in my judgement, that is exactly what he is. He certainly isn't perfect — no human being has been perfect for almost 2000 years — but the voters have winnowed the field, and the man I thought would make the best President was one of those winnowed out. The Republican nominee will not be Rick Perry, whom I wanted to win. The Republican nominee will not be Sarah Palin, whom John Hitchcock wanted to win; she declined to run at all. Republican nominee will not be Mitch Daniels or Jon Huntsman or Chris Christie or Michele Bachmann. The Republican nominee will be one of the four men running for the office right now, and it is from those four we must choose our candidate. None of them meet all of the criteria I have for selecting a candidate, so I must take a decision based on the one I believe would make the best candidate and the best President.


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