By David Frum
Wednesday, August 27, 2008
Romney as VP? - 2 in a series
A friend writes:
Ten Reasons Mitt Romney Should Not Be the VP Nominee
10. Inexperience. Romney, a one-term governor who did not run for reelection, has precisely one-third of the elective experience that Dan Quayle had when nominated for Vice President, and Quayle was attacked for his inexperience. A Romney nomination would cut against the grain of one of McCain’s best arguments – Obama’s inexperience – and this is particularly true when placed against Joe Biden.
9. Rommey supporters typically say that he would be good on the economy. But why, exactly? Paul O’Neill and John Snow were both highly successful businessmen, and yet were weak as Treasury Secretary. Why would Romney be any different – and would McCain want to be seen to hand over control of the economy to his vice president? Business and government require different leadership styles. Few people can handle both well, and Romney’s thin record as governor provides little evidence he can. The conservative Tax Foundation stated that the total state and local tax burden in Massachusetts rose 5.1 percent on Romney’s watch, and the state ranked 46th in job growth from 2003-2005 (in the middle of a boom). In any event, skill in business is very different from skill in finance – or governing.
8. Thin skin. In the Republican debates, Romney always wanted to be the focus of attention, taking more than his allotted share of time and reacting badly when others questioned his statements or views. McCain clobbered him in the debates, helping assure his own nomination. Joe Biden would do likewise.
7. While “anybody but _______” efforts rarely work in American politics (think Carter, Reagan, Mondale), this one did. At least three candidates – Huckabee, Giuliani, Thompson – decided that they simply preferred beating Romney and effectively worked together to stop him. What was it about Romney they so disliked? This also doesn’t say much about his ability to unite the party, keep support, or exert political leadership.
6. Whether one is pro-choice or pro-life, Romney’s flip-flop on abortion seems terribly insincere. To believe the story as it was originally told, Romney was concerned over stem cell research. Ask any of your active pro-life friends: they will probably know many people who are pro-life except for the stem cells issue and will have met no one who became pro-life because of it. His palpable anger when asked detailed questions about his views does not give credence to the sincerity of his conversion.
5. Can Romney supporters point to even one poll – just one poll – showing that he would have won reelection in 2006? It is not good enough to say “oh, but he said he wanted to run for President, so there were no polls.” (What about Romney internals?) George Bush faced this dilemma in 1998 and won reelection handily as Governor of Texas. What does this say about Romney’s record as Governor? Isn’t the better conclusion that he won (with less than 50% of the vote) only against a very weak Democratic candidate from western Massachusetts and governed in an undistinguished fashion? If we want to say that Barack Obama’s record is thin, we must say the same about Romney’s, so he cannot be the nominee.
4. In 2004, some very effective advertising mocked John Kerry for windsurfing off Nantucket as a sign he was out of touch with the people. How, then, would the people react, in a time of economic gloom, to learning that Romney’s hedge funds – based offshore, presumably to avoid U.S. taxation – are named after a lighthouse on the same island? Can’t you just picture the ads now?
3. With McCain’s implicit one-term pledge, a Romney nomination – giving the vice presidency to a deep-pocketed candidate – would sharply divide the Republican party by effectively conceding the 2012 nomination to him, sidelining both up-and-coming candidates like Governors Pawlenty, Palin, and Jindal and current figures such as Mike Huckabee (who came in second, remember – Romney did not). How will the party react? The same consideration does not apply for a pick of, for instance, Pawlenty, Jindal, Governor Jon Huntsman, or Rep. Eric Cantor. They do not have the money to dominate the party and the conservative movement as Romney does. The 1988 primaries show that a sitting Vice President can be effectively challenged – but Romney would begin the race with a huge advantage simply because of his personal wealth. Allegations have already been raised that Romney’s foundation money has been used (improperly?) to bolster his political image And given this, would President McCain have any assurance that Romney would be loyal?
2. Can Romney supporters name a single major accomplishment of Romeny’s as Governor that would please conservatives? His “RomneyCare” health plan? Unlikely, as the candidate himself walked away from it during the primaries. Did he have any ability to persuade the legislature? After the Massachusetts Supreme Court’s decision on gay marriage, did Romney even switch a single legislator to vote in favor of placing a constitutional amendment on gay marriage on the ballot, so the people could deicide rather than judges? If so, who? The burden should be on Romney supporters to provide the names and details. Did the Legislature not like him, or is it better to say that he simply walked away from the issue? The Boston Globe’s valedictory editorial (December 26, 2006) sums it up well: "Romney himself admits that a number of his goals remain unmet. His inability to lower the nation's highest unemployment insurance rate, to secure merit pay for teachers, and to reinvigorate the Republican Party were among the frustrations he listed."
1. On a family vacation, he put the family dog in a cage on top of the car while driving for 12 hours, across an international border – an experiment in logistics, aerodynamics, and animal welfare that predictably failed when the dog became ill. Over 50 million American dogs – and 40 million American dog owners – would be horrified.
For my own part, I think Obama's selection of Joe Biden (one of the least wealthy men in the US Senate) makes a Romney pick a very, very dangerous exercise in bad optics ...