This election has been an interesting event in that it’s made for some odd alliances and match-ups. Mitt Romney was the candidate, most grassroots wanted defeated, but he’s been an out-front voice for #NeverTrump and many had hoped he’d be an Independent Candidate for President. Erick Erickson who had been critical of Romney, urged him to run for President.
Why the improved opinion of Mitt Romney? There are many factors. First, Trump is much worse than Romney. Second, Romney brings home features that were taken for granted in the past, such as being a responsible adult, possessing good judgment, and having good character. Most of us would only view cars having brakes and steering wheels as great features if forced to drive cars that lacked them.
Perhaps most importantly, those of us who thought Mitt Romney lacked any core values have learned that isn’t the case. He has provided a devastating, clear, and unapologetic critique of Trumpism as the threat to conservatism it is.
Of course, many Trump supporters will point out, in 2012, Romney sought Trump’s endorsement and obtained it, which helped him win the Michigan Primary, and had nice things to say about Trump then. It’s reasonable to wonder whether Trump would have risen so far if Romney hadn’t legitimized him. While there’s truth to that, to be fair to Romney, Trump hadn’t began his infamous racial demagoguery. Romney couldn’t have imagined Trump launching himself as a serious candidate. Romney has further done everything in his power to correct his mistake. Other Establishment leaders were content to sit on the sidelines and decide tacitly that Donald Trump would be a better nominee than Ted Cruz. Romney swallowed his pride and urged people to fall behind Cruz.
At the same time, Romney has disappointed many by ruling out a third party bid. Those working on a third party effort insist the ballot access obstacles in most states can be overcome. Perhaps it could be. The problem is we lack a prominent national political figure willing to step into the fray. Romney could do this most easily. One ABC poll showed him at 22% in a three-person race. He might do even better as the race goes on, and both Hillary and Trump could implode, allowing a third choice to triumph or finish ahead of Trump at the very least.
Yet, Romney running a longshot third party bid isn’t in his nature. Romney is much like the proposals he offered during his 2012 campaign: cautious, modest, and hesitant. During his recent E2 summit in Utah, Romney and his multi-millionaire and billionaire friends spent the weekend bemoaning the choice as some friends and I did recently a few hundred miles away at a backyard barbecue. The big difference is none of us at the barbecue had national name recognition and a billion dollar donor network that could give Americans a viable third choice. Romney had these things but is not willing to utilize them.
This is a problem for the GOP and it’s helped create Trump. One constant refrain among Trump supporters is Trump should be supported because “He fights!” True enough. Many of these fights are silly, unnecessary ego trips, but he does fight which Trump voters hope will translate into fighting for them.
Boldness, courage, and imagination are necessary for a president in the face of the changing economy, a fight to redefine family and humanity itself, and the threat of terrorism. Personal decency and character should define conservative candidates, but that must be coupled with the ability to offer bold, conservative leadership in moments of crisis.