On Tuesday night Governor Romney won convincingly in Illinois demonstrating he is the eventual nominee. Senator Santorum and Speaker Gingrich may win a few more states and plenty of delegates, but they cannot win outside a brokered convention. At some point for the good of the country they need to get out of the way and allow Romney to begin the campaign against the President.
The idea of a brokered convention is a disaster not only for the Republican Party, but for the country. The country needs an open and robust debate on the President’s first term and the alternative that Governor Romney may present. A brokered convention that produced a candidate other Romney, the person with the most votes in the primaries, would be democratically illegitimate. Can you imagine Romney supporters working for the election of an illegitimate nominee?
Why is it so important for the country to begin the debate between Romney and the President? Because, fundamentally the President really does not appear to understand how the economy functions. Over and over the President and his team promote policies where the government picks winners and losers based on political preferences.
One of the President’s most consistent themes is the need for renewable energy, a long term Democratic political goal. Over the last several days he has advocated closing the oil and gas industry’s tax deductions and devoting the savings to clean energy. This is not the traditional role of the government funding basic research, but instead favoring one business over another. Not funding research into more efficient solar cell technology or windmills that do not kill birds, but subsidizing the existing inadequate solar and wind businesses over fossil fuels.
While renewable energy sources would provide energy independence from the Middle East and reduce pollution, renewables have to be commercially viable. The idea that we are now going to subsidize wind and solar energy companies is reminiscent of the corn ethanol debacle. In essence, the President is proposing a planned industrial policy without any market support that it will ever be commercially viable. He is picking winners (renewables) over losers (fossil fuels, including natural gas).
To say that cheap abundant natural gas, which is also cleaner that oil or coal, is a loser and has to compete against government subsidized renewables is to repeat the ethanol industrial policy. Industrial policy versus free market consumer driven purchasing decisions is a debate worth having in the election. But that debate is not happening.
Romney reminds me very much of most of the private equity executives I worked with over more than a decade. Incredibly smart and focused on reducing inefficiency and delivering results. The President reminds me very much of my law school professors. Incredibly smart and focused on debate, ideas, and consensus. Those are very different candidate profiles.
Even as a long-term Democrat I want to see an alternative, particularly an alternative who has the drive and experience to produce results in the economy. But the problem we all face today is we have no alternative, but rather a nasty fight over religion, contraception, and other peripheral issues. I honestly have no idea what are Romney’s real plans for taxes and the economy. He has certainly produced hundred point plans on both, but what does it really mean?
When Ronald Reagan ran for the Presidency thirty-two years ago he had a plan. Even today I can tell you the Reagan plan – cut taxes, cut regulation, and rebuild our national defense. So far Romney has made a good biographical case, but has presented no real agenda for the future. The rest of the Republicans need to move aside and allow Romney to present his message.
Because as I keep repeating to Republican friends, to beat the President you have to nominate a strong candidate. It is not enough to say the President is incompetent even if as a Republican you believe it. You have to convince the rest of the country the Republican nominee is competent. And there is nothing in the current primary fight that suggests competence.