I got my absentee ballot in the mail yesterday, and for the first time in memory I wasn’t looking forward to filing it out.
Don’t get me wrong, I love voting. I know mathematically speaking my vote means nothing, but as we saw in Iowa and Maine, a vote does count, and it does matter. I feel it is important for people to voice their opinion on politics. Go out and cast your vote, at least then you have a leg to stand on when you argue that so-and-so is a bad politician or ruining the country.
Either way, this GOP primary has been tough. Not just for the candidates, but for the voters. This is a tough field to gauge. On the one hand you have Mitt Romney, who was seen only four short years ago as the “conservative alternative” to John McCain. Now? People are searching for a “conservative alternative” to Romney. Some people believe Rick Santorum is that alternative, but it is becoming clearer that he is only more conservative on the social issues, and when it comes to the size and scope of government, Santorum could be classified as a big government republican.
Then there’s Newt Gingrich, who says really awesome things…sometimes. I find myself loving Gingrich one minute, and hating him the next. He’s erratic and unpredictable. I think he has great ideas, but poor ways of communicating them. He comes across as angry, which isn’t necessarily a poor trait considering most of the country is angry right now, but we don’t need a leader who is running around like a chicken with his head cutoff. We need a cool, calm, and collective leader who will get the job done.
Early in the campaign, back when he was polling in low single digits, I thought Santorum was that guy. I could see him being a leader, I could see him putting on that hard hat and going into Ground Zero. It kind of clicked. But he’s got some serious question marks economically and with his voting record. I’m concerned about his stance on earmarks, and I’m worried about some of the things he’s said in the past biting him the butt.
I started to look at this election from the perspective of general election voters and electability overall. Who would appeal most to independent voters, a vital voting bloc that needs to be corralled by the republicans, and honestly it’s a voting bloc that is dying to be enticed by a GOP candidate. The vast majority of Obama’s job approval erosion has come from the voters in the middle. They want someone else.
Which brings me to an interesting Gallup poll. 51% of respondents said Obama was too liberal, only 33% said Romney was too conservative, and only 38% said Santorum was too conservative. More people said Romney and Santorum were just right than said Obama was just right. 50% of independents said Obama was too liberal. Furthermore 50% of Americans said they disagreed with Obama on the issues. But more said they agree with Obama than Santorum or Romney. Which is interesting considering a majority said he was too liberal, and as we know from past Gallup polling, only 20% of the country identifies themselves as liberal.
Now there’s a couple of caveats on this polling. Obviously the agreement on the issues thing is up-in-the-air for Santorum and Romney right now, the contrast with Obama will become starker in the general election, then that number will truly matter. But the poll paints a weak outlook for Obama, certainly an up hill battle for his campaign. The majority of Americans disagree with him on the issues, how could he possibly win reelection?
Simple; he’s a good speaker, he can persuade people, he’s personable, he’s likeable, he can pretend really well that he’s a good leader. He’ll say, I need four more years to get my agenda done. He’s a great orator, but a poor leader. I really believe that the GOP needs a candidate that can hit Obama where it will really hurts; on leadership.
The right already has a leg up on the issues, this is still a center-right country. A majority disagrees with Obama on the issues, and that’s only bound to grow larger. But he can still portray himself as a leader.
So, for me this election is about who can beat Obama. And subsequently that is about who can challenge Obama on leadership skills. And even deeper its about who’s electable.
Looking at all the candidates, Mitt Romney fits all those characteristics. Out of the entire GOP field he has the most leadership experience. I’ll gladly take executive experience at the state level over congressional experience any day. He has the experience in the private sector that I like, and he’s been heavily vetted in two election cycles. We know all there is to know about Mitt Romney, there are no more skeletons in that closet.
Meanwhile, it seems the Rick Santorum dirt is just breaking ground. Every day there’s something else that comes out about him, and if it doesn’t damage him in the primary race, it will certainly damage him in the general election. I also believe some of his social views, which I generally agree with, are low hanging fruit in the general election. Mitt Romney holds many of the same views, without the bombastic soundbites to support those views. Rick Santorum is very outspoken, and I like that, but his way of communicating his beliefs can sometimes come across as crass and derogatory. That will hurt him.
Newt Gingrich has great ideas, but I seriously question his leadership. I’ll be honestly, the personal life bothers me. It shows a lack of integrity. And he has had questionable ethics in the past. I’m looking for honesty and integrity, and I don’t think he has it. I love his communication style, it’s straightforward, honest, and to the point, and it is largely spot on. But he’s also prone to gaffes and comments that are in the heat of the moment, not entirely thought through. That will hurt him in the general.
And then there’s Ron Paul. I don’t agree with him on many foreign policy issues, so there’s that. But furthermore I think he hasn’t been vetted at all. In these two elections no one has taken him seriously, so no one has worked to find the dirt on him. There have been a few issues, but nothing has stuck. He does have an army of supporters that seemingly blindly support him no matter what is revealed about his past, but that actually bothers me. It’s too Obama like.
Taking this all into account, it became clear that Romney was the wise choice. He might not be as conservative as I’d like, but he’s conservative on the right issues; the economic ones. He understands the economy and what will make it grow, and he has the leadership skills that are necessary to run the country. That is what’s important right now.
So my absentee ballot is in the mail, with the bubble for Romney filled in. I wouldn’t color myself an enthusiastic supporter, but I think he’s our best shot at beating Obama.