Throughout the Republican primaries, numerous candidates on stage touted the fact that the most important issue for Republicans was beating Barack Obama. Mitt Romney took advantage of this by painting himself as the most likely to beat Obama.
He has moved to the middle since winning the primary, likely in an effort to build more voting appeal. He hired Mike Leavitt, a man who lobbied governors to implement Obamacare, to lead his transition team. He said that there were things in the controversial piece of legislation he liked, and he stopped referring to himself as severely conservative.
The spotlight has shone brightly on Romney’s campaign and their follies as of the late, the most recent and embarrassing example being his claims that he has no hope of convincing 47% of the electorate to vote for him because they are dependent upon the government. While the idea that any candidate has no chance of convincing almost half of the electorate to vote for him may be true, Romney’s comment reeked of the sort of class warfare that Democrats are frequently accused of. To make matters worse, it sounded like a cruise missile lobbed back at the poor by a member of the 1%.
But the primary reason why Romney is behind and will likely lose this election is because he does not have deep enough convictions about free markets and individual liberty to properly convey this message. Therefore, he is running a directionless campaign which allows itself to be steered by outside influence rather than an internal compass. This was made apparent in a recent Politico article showing a lack of defined power structures within the Romney campaign.
What excited conservatives and libertarians about the selection of Paul Ryan as the GOP vice presidential nominee was not his voting record, but instead his defense of free markets and limited government. Ryan has been relatively uninspiring, focusing more on attacking Barack Obama than making the case for liberty. Most confounding is his insistence of repeatedly hammering Obama for cutting Medicare. That’s right: a “conservative Republican” is attacking a far left liberal for cutting an entitlement program.
In 1980, Americans faced a similar choice to the one they have this year. On one side was a Democrat who had four years of failed policies and economic stagnation. On the other side was one of the greatest articulators of the morality and benefits of limited government mankind has ever known. Ronald Reagan believed that libertarianism was the heart and soul of conservatism, and his rhetoric matched that belief. The American people trusted in his vision of our nation, and elected him with electoral vote margins of 440 and 512 in 1980 and 1984 respectively. In 1984 Reagan was able to run for reelection on a successful first term, highlighted by his famous “Morning in America” ad which focused on a new sense of national optimism.
Romney’s campaign has been compared to a failing firm that needs a new CEO. The problem is that whoever is tasked with leading the Romney campaign lacks a clear directive. Mitt Romney’s primary goal seems to be getting elected, rather than to advance policy principles. Businesses do not succeed when their goal is to make money, but only when they aim to provide superior products or services to people. Likewise, a campaign must have principles beyond winning in order to actually achieve victory.
Not all hope is lost for team Romney. Obama has to run on his record, and it is horrible. If you take Obama at his word, you shouldn’t vote for him. He didn’t cut the deficit by half. He didn’t keep unemployment below 8%. He has not been the most transparent administration ever. Instead of a less aggressive foreign policy, he has been more aggressive and more apologetic. Instead of reversing Bush’s track record on civil liberties, his administration has killed American citizens without due process and sued for the right to detain American citizens without due process. Obama’s economic failures will likely draw moderates to Romney’s side regardless of how incompetent his campaign is, and Obama’s civil liberty disappointments will keep some liberals home on election day.
We don’t know how good of a president Mitt Romney will be, but we do know how bad of one Barack Obama has been. Rather than align himself with a disproved and failed ideology, Romney will likely attempt to implement empirically proven solutions to turn America around. Fortunately for libertarian ideologues like myself, freedom works.