Friday, May 13, 2011

The Wall Street Journal takes on the Republican candidates

[This was due to post yesterday just before Blogger went down.]

You heard that right.  [Yesterday's] editorial pages of the nation's leading conservative paper delivers a blunt critique of Romney by way of RomneyCare in Massachusetts, since this is the core issue of his campaign.  It is an excellent piece of exposition about the failures of the Massachusetts health care reform act, perhaps best summed up by these lines:
Like Mr. Obama's reform, RomneyCare was predicated on the illusion that insurance would be less expensive if everyone were covered. Even if this theory were plausible, it is not true in Massachusetts today.
And it's conclusion pulls no punches:
For a potential President whose core argument is that he knows how to revive free market economic growth, this amounts to a fatal flaw. Presidents lead by offering a vision for the country rooted in certain principles, not by promising a technocracy that runs on "data." Mr. Romney's highest principle seems to be faith in his own expertise.
More immediately for his Republican candidacy, the debate over ObamaCare and the larger entitlement state may be the central question of the 2012 election. On that question, Mr. Romney is compromised and not credible. If he does not change his message, he might as well try to knock off Joe Biden and get on the Obama ticket.
Equally bracing was the evaluation of Newt Gingrich given the day before in James Taranto's Best of the Web column (and as Gingrich was announcing his candidacy), in the third item titled 'Gingrich for president? Nah.' (lest you doubt from the outset how this piece would go).  Some telling paragraphs:
We've met Gingrich a bunch of times, and we like him--which is to say, we find him engaging and entertaining. But the thought of him in the White House makes us uneasy. For one thing, he has an outsized sense of his own historic destiny (a trait he shares with Barack Obama).
For another, while he is undoubtedly very intelligent, he is erratically so. People on the left love to stereotype conservatives as "incurious," but Gingrich is too curious--too quick to latch onto ideas and drop them rather than give them thoughtful consideration. Thus the outbursts that raise those eyebrows.
After the lackluster, ho-hum performance (& more importantly, the reception) of the five early candidates debating in South Carolina a few days ago, these two shots at what must be considered two of the leading contenders for the Republican nomination simply points out what a slog may well be ahead for the GOP. 

This sets the stage for Mitch Daniels, whom I expect is seriously considering the run, though perhaps reluctantly.  The party needs to pump him up for the run not just for himself but also to overcome the appearance that he is just the last guy standing when nomination time comes around.  While he may lack the charisma that our MSM craves, it could well be in his favour if the GOP plays up Obama's stridently radiant vacuity against the question to the American electorate of 'Did you get what you paid for?' (& believe me, we've paid).  At the same time, Daniels' image should be cultivated as the new Calvin Coolidge, which would have been a pop cultural joke not too long ago, until Ronald Reagan almost single-handedly resurrected his image (though not completely: there's still a way to go, but to seize the iniative would help with a public-school populace in 2011 who mostly have never heard of Coolidge).

Update:  The WSJ editorial about Romney appeared just before his appearance at the University of Michigan, in his attempt to distance his RomneyCare from ObamaCare.  He made a valiant effort & laid out a far better plan, including points that conservatives have insisted would have a far better impact on the health care problem, such as competition across state lines & tort reform, which the Democrats have refused to consider (as laid out in the Washington Times):
In a five-plank federal plan rolled out in the lecture hall, Mr. Romney said as president he would grant more power and flexibility to states by block-granting Medicaid payments and easing federal standards. His plan would also promote individual coverage through tax deductions for those who buy their own insurance; allow people to buy insurance across state lines; and reduce the influence of lawsuits by capping damages in medical malpractice lawsuits.
Mr. Romney dedicated the opening of his remarks to his reading of American history and drove home the point that his health care plan was built on the federalist approach to governance that is spelled out in the 10th Amendment, reserving to the states all the powers not explicitly granted to the federal government. It's a philosophy that also has been a rallying cry for the tea party movement and a bedrock of the conservative movement for decades.
. . . a recent WMUR Granite State poll, conducted by the University of New Hampshire, also found that Mr. Romney's ability to distance himself from Mr. Obama's health care plan will be of immense importance. Just 35 percent of New Hampshire adults favor the reform law, while 52 percent oppose it. Among the New Hampshire Republicans surveyed, just 5 percent support Mr. Obama's plan.
And he didn't convince the WSJ:
Mr. Romney also sold his plan using the same theories and language as Mr. Obama, and he might have rebutted the President from experience and evidence. Instead, he has lashed himself to the contradiction of attacking Mr. Obama's plan while claiming his own is different.
Many people have tried to talk Mr. Romney down from this daredevil campaign act, but Mr. Romney privately says he doesn't want to reinforce the rap he had in 2008 that he had reinvented himself too often [conservative senate candidate, liberal governor, conservative presidential candidate, . . .]. As a political matter, however, we think it's better to change positions than to try to defend the intellectually indefensible.
Mr. Romney is not taking our advice . . . . He even said yesterday that he would do it all over again in Massachusetts, which means he is in for a year in which Republicans attack him on policy while Democrats defend him on policy but attack him as a hypocrite.
It was a good try, but it just didn't wash politically.  I don't think Mitt can pull it off.

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