On television last night, I saw both Rick Santorum (R-PA) and Newt Gingrich (R-GA) waving Etch-A-Sketches around onstage, saying Mitt Romney (R-MA) would erase his primary campaign and move left for the general election. This was meant to imply Romney is a flip-flopping politician with no conservative principles, and came after Romney adviser Eric Fehrnstrom went on CNN and compared the general election to an Etch A Sketch, saying Romney can "shake it up" and "start all over again" in the fall.
Such is politics, I suppose, but this prompts me to share a few thoughts about the GOP primary race.
1. With friends like Fehrnstrom, Romney doesn't need enemies. He played right into the hands of Romney's opponents. Here's what Santorum spokesman Alice Stewart said of the Etch-A-Sketch remark:
Stewart said Fehrnstrom's remark "confirms what a lot of conservatives have been afraid of."
"He used to be pro-abortion, he used to be pro-gay marriage, he used to be pro-Wall Street bailouts, climate change," Stewart said of Romney. "You know now he's talking a different language, but the campaign acknowledges that if need be, if he won the primary, he would go right back to the middle in order to win the general."
Add the RomneyCare vs. ObamaCare issue into the mix, and you know what challenges Romney will face on the flip-flopping front during the general election.
2. How in the world did Rick Santorum manage to get into second place ? At the beginning of this process, when I looked at all the potential GOP nominees, Santorum barely merited a look. He was an afterthought. Santorum lost his 2006 Senate re-election bid to Democrat Bob Casey by 18 points, and even though it's only March, there hasn't been one poll that gives Santorum a chance of beating Obama. Santorum may tap into that evangelical social conservative vote, but that alone won't win the presidency. If the GOP's wish is to lose badly in November, by all means, pick Santorum.
3. I hated the Etch-A-Sketch. All I could ever draw with it were squares and rectangles. My diagonal lines always looked they were drawn by a drunk, weaving all over the place.
4. Gingrich has lost it in his desperation to win. He's been trying to paint Romney and Obama as the same person. I'll get back to that nonsense in a minute.
5. The Republican party should make Romney it's candidate, stop all the damaging infighting, and get on with the REAL goal of defeating President Obama, where every poll shows Romney has the best chance by far.
Now let's get to what is really important - what Romney will do if he's elected President. Luckily for us, we have a Romney track record at which to look (the rest of this post rebuts Gingrich's silly contention that Romney and Obama are the same). Here's a bit of his background:
Mitt and Ann married on March 21, 1969. Ann was attending college at Brigham Young University and Mitt transferred there, eventually graduating first in his class in 1971 with a degree in English and a 3.97 GPA. Their first son, Taggart, was born on their first anniversary.
The young couple moved to Boston so Mitt could attend Harvard Law School. He was also accepted into a joint M.B.A. program at Harvard Business School. Their second son, Matthew, was born and in 1975 he graduated cum laude from Harvard Law School and in the top 5 percent of his class at HBS.
He first worked at Boston Consulting Group, then as a management consultant at Bain & Co., where he became a vice president in 1978. By then he and Ann had three more sons--Joshua, Benjamin, and Craig. Mitt was asked to head Bain Capital, a venture capital company, in 1984. It was there that he became a millionaire.
He spent $3 million of his own money in an unsuccessful race to unseat Edward Kennedy from the U.S. Senate in 1994.
He became president and CEO of the Salt Lake Organizing Committee in February 1999 and turned around a scandal-plagued Winter Olympics. Romney donated $1 million to the games and refused to take a salary unless the committee finished in the black. When the Olympics ended successfully in February 2002, people viewed him in a new light as a rising politician.
Romney was elected the 70th governor of Massachusetts in 2002 and served until 2007. He decided not to run for re-election and instead pursued an unsuccessful bid for the presidency.
This all paints a picture of an extremely competent and successful man. I'd sure call that a plus for a potential President.
Let's look specifically at Romney's past executive performance as Governor of Massachusetts as a predictor of how he will perform as President, and let's not forget that a Republican winning the governorship in bluer-than-blue Massachusetts is no small feat in and of itself. Conservative columnist Ann Coulter provided some data on Romney in her latest column:
[Romney] cut state spending by $600 million, including reducing his own staff budget by $1.2 million, and hacked the largest government agency, Health and Human Services, down from 13 divisions to four. He did this largely by persuading the Legislature to give him emergency powers his first year in office to cut government programs without their consent.
Although Romney was not able to get any income tax cuts past the Democratic Legislature, he won other tax cuts totaling nearly $400 million, including a one-time capital gains tax rebate and a two-day sales tax holiday for all purchases under $2,500.
He also vetoed more bills than any other governor in Massachusetts history, before or since. He vetoed bills concerning access to birth control, more spending on state zoos, and the creation of an Asian-American commission -- all of which were reversed by the Legislature.
As Barbara Anderson, executive director of Citizens for Limited Taxation, said, "What else could he do?"
Romney left his successor, Deval Patrick, Democrat and friend of Obama, with a "rainy day fund" of $2.1 billion, more than tripled from $640 million when Romney took office. (Of course, as soon as Romney was gone, Patrick raided the rainy day fund, increased government spending and raised taxes.)
Romney inherited a huge, Democrat-created budget deficit. The existing Massachusetts deficit was already more than half a billion dollars when Romney took office halfway through a fiscal year, with a projected deficit of $3 billion for the following fiscal year.
And yet, Romney balanced Massachusetts' budget each year he was in office and left the state with a surplus, without raising taxes.
To the contrary, every single budget Romney submitted included income tax cuts -- all of which were rejected by the 85-percent Democratic Legislature. (The last time Massachusetts legislators approved an income tax cut was when it was attached to a bill raising their own salaries by 55 percent.)
Romney balanced the budget by slashing spending, eliminating ridiculous corporate tax loopholes and increasing user fees for government services consumed by only some citizens, such as court filings, taking the bar exam, boating, hunting and golf licenses.
That all sounds pretty good to me, and pretty conservative. I'm ready to have Mitt Romney compare his budget balancing record to Barack Obama's trillion dollar deficits in the general election all day, every day, and twice on sundays. Republicans will just have to live with Romney's incredible sin of mandating healthcare for 97% of the Massachusetts electorate without raising taxes, I guess. Then again, this might not be as much of an issue if the Supreme Court does it's job and strikes down the unconstitutional ObamaCare health insurance mandate this year.
Here's more on Romney's record as Governor of Massachusetts (and this link corroborates the information I quoted from Coulter's column, for all you liberals out there who are having epileptic fits because I cited Ann Coulter):
In 2002 [before Romney became Governor], Massachusetts' economy was rapidly deteriorating. It was ranked 50th, the second worst in the nation in its increase in unemployment.  Job losses were so great that although a dozen states were more populous, and California had over 5 times as many people , Massachusetts lost more jobs than anywhere else in the country.
The unemployment rate in Massachusetts had doubled from January 2001 to January 2003, the year Romney took office, and was continuing to increase at a fast rate. He implemented pro-growth policies and programs. By summer the increase in unemployment had stopped and by fall unemployment was dropping.  While Massachusetts was 50th, or nearly the worst in the nation in the increase in unemployment rates the year that just ended when he took office, he got it down to 38th place by the end of his first year in office.  The unemployment rate continued to rapidly drop for nearly two years, hit a plateau for about a year and a half, then started dropping again at the end of his term of office (see chart below). The year he left office (2007), the trend in Massachusetts' unemployment rate was 12th in the nation , a big improvement from the 50th place it was in the year he won office.
Again, let's compare Romney's performance to Obama's performance all day long, every day of the week in the general election. Obama hasn't even gotten unemployment back to where it was when he took office, and that's AFTER he has run up debt faster than any President in history and skyrocketed spending.
But wait, there's more !
“Massachusetts saw its S&P rating rise to double-A from double-A-minus under Romney.”
During Governor Romney's tenure from 2003-7, Massachusetts dropped from 13th to 17th in national tax burden rankings [the Democrats in the state legislature blocked the tax cuts Romney wanted, or this figure would be FAR better]
“The state farthest along the path to the New Economy is Massachusetts. Topping the list in 1999 and 2002, Massachusetts' lead over other states in 2007 has increased [under Romney]—with a concentration of software, hardware, and biotech firms supported by universities such as MIT, Harvard, and others. The state had the fourth-highest increase in per capita income, according to the study.”
To sum it up, Romney's record is one of success. And if Romney changed his position on abortion and gay marriage...so what ? Lots of people do that. What counts is having a president who will get this country back on it's economic feet again. Obama has had his chance, and he has failed. Now it's time to give someone else a chance, someone who has a history of economic success. That man's name is Mitt Romney...and we have the added bonus that HE CAN ACTUALLY WIN !!!
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