His papers and positions on Israel issues are solidly on the right wing of Israeli politics (indeed, the same can be said of all the candidates except for Ron Paul), and it impossible to imagine a President Romney ever oozing the contempt for Israel’s prime minister that President Obama does.
Sad to say, the main obstacle Romney has to overcome is the distaste that many evangelicals have for Mormons, whom they consider heretics, and that many conservatives see Romney as too pareve in an election in which the choice will be between meat and milk. It might be wishful thinking on my part, but I can only assume that on Election Day, revulsion for Obama will cause these voters to cringe and vote for Romney.
In any event, I think most Americans are long past having a religious test for president, which the Constitution itself rejects. And the Mormon experience is, on a skeletal level, somewhat akin to the Jewish experience, so a Mitt Romney would have a much greater affinity for Jews than a Barack Obama – a disciple of the U.S.-hating, Jew-baiting Reverend Wright – could ever have.
What about Romney the flip-flopper? That is media talk. Most normal people change their positions on some issues during their lives, whether because circumstances change or maturity gives them a new perspective on old issues. The only people who never change their minds on anything are people who have stopped thinking.
It would seem that a President Romney would share the moral agenda of the American Right but, like President Reagan, would not do much about it. And Romney has the endearing habit of actually looking his opponents in the eye, and listening to – and responding to – what they are saying, all indicia of a leader. His main weakness is that his message is too elastic and spongy to attract the most energized Republican voters – Tea Party enthusiasts and the Christian evangelicals – who want a political revolution. Romney wants to continue business as usual, but done better, more intelligently and more effectively.
The Smartest Kid in the Room
Newt Gingrich blows away every listener with his mastery of the issues. He has not only thought through each of them, he has proposed solutions (in some cases enacted them into law) and revised them and proposed new solutions when the former did not work. A Gingrich-Obama debate would be riveting television from which people might actually learn something.
Gingrich has the charming quality of being able to apologize and to admit when he was wrong, a trait that comes in handy given his checkered personal history. (Asked the other night about a commercial he made with Nancy Pelosi about climate change, he answered, “It was the dumbest thing I ever did. I don’t know what I was thinking, but I thought it was a good idea at the time.” And he laughed.)
A Gingrich candidacy would make it easy on Democratic ad men, who would only need to trot out the “Gingrich=ogre, monster” ads from 1998 and 2000. His successes as House speaker are only now being recognized – four consecutive years of balanced budgets for which Bill Clinton claimed credit to all those who don’t comprehend that spending bills originate in the House. It was Gingrich who forced Clinton into balanced budgets, against the will of the Democrats at the time.
Can Gingrich overcome his personal baggage – affairs, three wives, the demonization by the press for whom Gingrich has little-disguised contempt? That is also possible under the ABO theory of this election, but still risky. He will be a human piñata for the media. Expect a tsunami of anti-Gingrich stories in the next two months dredging up past positions and peccadilloes.
Herman Cain possesses leadership qualities and business success that are well suited to the needs of this election. Still a little raw on the issues, his main problem is not necessarily the female accusers who have harmed his brand – which was the refreshing aura of the non-politician trying to right the listing American ship – with unproven accusations that might just backfire and energize his supporters.
Cain’s main problem is that the early states – Iowa, New Hampshire – do not cater to his strengths, and poor performances there will set the media train rolling to the theme of “Cain’s fall and decline” from which it is difficult to rebound. He does well in the polls, but that is not the same as success in individual states. Nonetheless, he can still be a formidable candidate – one reason why the accusations arose – if the female drumbeat ceases soon, because he is perceived as a straight-talking, solution-oriented businessman who rose from obscurity, lived the American dream and can cut deeply into Obama’s black base.