Romney Could Split Party Establishment If He Ran Again

Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney speaks at a campaign event, August 12, 2012
Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney speaks at a campaign event, August 12, 2012 (Monkeyz_uncle)

If Mitt Romney seeks the Republican Party’s nomination for the White House a third time, he could split the relatively moderate conservative vote at the detriment of former Florida governor Jeb Bush — and allow an anti-establishment third candidate to win.

Romney, who lost the 2012 election against Democrat Barack Obama with 47.2 percent support, hinted last week that he might try again.

The former Massachusetts governor unsuccessfully sought the Republicans’ presidential nomination for the first time in 2008.

The Washington Post reported on Monday that Romney was “moving quickly to reassemble his national political network, calling former aides, donors and other supporters” in what the newspaper characterized as “a concerted push to signal his seriousness about possibly launching a 2016 presidential campaign.”

According to the Post, Romney told supporters he would run to the right of Jeb Bush, the brother and son of former Republican presidents who signaled his own intention to seek the nomination last month.

Romney has tried to assure conservatives that he shares their views on immigration and tax policy — and that should he enter the race, he will not forsake party orthodoxy.

In the last primary election, Romney struggled to convince rightwingers he wasn’t a moderate, given his ambiguous views on abortion and support for health reforms in Massachusetts which served as a template for President Obama’s health-care overhaul.

The hard line Romney took on immigration at the time was widely perceived to have alienated potential Hispanic supporters, contributing to Obama’s reelection.

Bush has sounded more conciliatory on the issue. He supports legal status, but not citizenship, for illegal immigrants and said many who come to the United States illegally do so out of an “act of love” for their families.

Challenging rightwingers who call for ideological purity in the wake of two presidential election defeats, he also argued in an interview, “We need to be the governing party. The whole point of this is to take conservative principles and apply them. And the only way you can do that is get fifty plus one.”

Although a closer look at his governing record in Florida reveals that Bush is far less of a moderate than his opponents allow — he cut taxes by $14 billion, eliminated thousands of public-sector jobs, introduced tougher crime laws for repeat offenders, expanded gun rights and created the nation’s first statewide school voucher program — Bush and Romney would likely both be considered “establishment” candidates by the party’s right wing. Politico summarized last week, “Both are former governors, aligned with the business-friendly establishment side of the Republican Party.”

The political news website predicted the two would find themselves “competing for pledges from the same donors, not to mention the same pool of aides and operatives and the same types of voters in the Republican primary.”

Last time, Romney won the primary because his opponents split the right-wing vote. This time around, if reactionaries could rally behind a single candidate early on — such as the Texas firebrand Ted Cruz, the social conservative Rick Santorum from Pennsylvania or Kentucky’s libertarian senator, Rand Paul — Bush and Romney might end up denying each other victory and giving the nomination to a radical — who would then almost certainly be defeated by the Democrat in the general election.

Cruz, on Monday, was quick to criticize Romney, saying he represented the “mushy middle” and nominating centrist candidates had proven to be a “failed electoral strategy.” Santorum had earlier told Romney to “bring it on.” And The New York Times‘s Nate Cohn speculated on Monday that Paul would benefit the most from a split moderate vote if he could win in either of the early primary states Iowa and New Hampshire.

On Edge of Fiscal Cliff, Barack Obama Reelected

President Barack Obama campaigns in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, November 3
President Barack Obama campaigns in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, November 3 (Obama for America/Paul Kadzielski)

Incumbent president Barack Obama won a second term on Tuesday after a hotly-contested election. While his Democratic Party did not regain control of the House of Representatives, it hold on to its majority in the Senate, inaugurating four more years of divided government.

The Republican candidate, Mitt Romney, had been neck and neck with the president in national preelection polls. But in most of the crucial swing states, including Ohio and Virginia, the incumbent eked out sometimes narrow victories, providing him with a comfortable Electoral College majority — even if the race in Florida was still too close to call on Wednesday morning.

Americans elect their president and vice president not by popular vote but through an electoral college system that advantages smaller states. Nevertheless, the outcome of the popular vote hardly ever differs from the outcome in the Electoral College. The most recent exception was in 2000 when Democrat Al Gore won roughly half a million more votes nationwide but George W. Bush won five more points in the Electoral College. Obama on Tuesday won a little over one million more votes than his challenger.

Whatever the outcome, the two parties in Congress have little alternative but to work together after what has been a bitter election campaign unless they are prepared to let the United States career off the “fiscal cliff” — a combination of spending cuts and tax increases worth half a trillion dollars that is set to go into effect under existing legislation. If lawmakers don’t act to stop it, economists warn that the country could plunge into recession again.

To balance spending in the long term, comprehensive entitlement and tax reform is needed. For the last two years, the two parties haven’t been able to compromise. Democrats refuse to reform entitlements; Republicans won’t raise taxes. Obama adhered to his party’s positions in the campaign as he vehemently criticized a Republican plan to privatize health care for seniors and proposed to raise taxes on the wealthy to reduce the nation’s deficit. It’s doubtful if either plan can be passed through a divided legislature.

Auto Bailout, Energy Loom Over Election in Rust Belt

President Barack Obama prepares to address a campaign rally in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, November 3
President Barack Obama prepares to address a campaign rally in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, November 3 (Obama for America/Paul Kadzielski)

Tuesday’s presidential election in the United States may well be decided in the northeastern “Rust Belt” states of Iowa, Pennsylvania, Ohio, Wisconsin and the demographically comparable state of New Hampshire. Together, these states account for 58 electoral votes in the election, more than enough to tip the balance in either candidate’s favor.

Incumbent president Barack Obama has almost consistently polled ahead of his Republican challenger Mitt Romney in all five states but the latter cannot win the election without carrying either Pennsylvania, Ohio or two of the three remaining northeastern swing states. That is, assuming he wins in Colorado, Florida, North Carolina and Virginia which seems likely.

The president leads the former Massachusetts governor in terms of favorability and job approval in all five states. Even if they have been among the hardest hit in the recession, his handling of the economy is also appraised fairly well by Rust Belt voters. Obama won all five states with significant leads over his rival John McCain in 2008.

The last time Iowa and Ohio voted for a Republican was in 2004. George W. Bush didn’t win New Hampshire that year but did in 2000. The last time Pennsylvania voted for a Republican was in 1998. The last time Wisconsin did was in 1984 when all states but Minnesota reelected President Ronald Reagan. Republicans believe that they have a chance of winning the state this year as Wisconsin congressman Paul Ryan was added to their presidential ticket as Mitt Romney’s running mate in August.

The critical constituencies in all five states is composed of white working-class men and middle-class women. In the 2008 Democratic Party primary, Hillary Clinton polled far better among blue-collar voters in states like Pennsylvania and Ohio than Obama. In the general election, nationwide, he carried college educated whites, women, first time voters and racial minorities by landslides but lost the white working class by eighteen points to John McCain.

A Pew Research Center poll conducted last year found that 43 percent of the white working class didn’t believe that it would be better off in ten years’ time. It was the most negative view of any of the groups polled and explains why, in the 2010 midterm election, blue-collar voters went 63 percent Republicans. It helped the party win House and Senate seats as well as governorships across the northeast, including in Illinois, Iowa, Michigan, New Hampshire, Pennsylvania, Ohio and Wisconsin.

Even if the unemployment rate in all five northeastern battleground ground states has since come down to below the national average, Republicans aim to replicate the success of 2010 by arguing that the president is holding the recovery back.

Like the president, Romney is highly critical of Chinese monetary and trade policies, arguing that they are to blame for the disappearance of manufacturing jobs in the states that were once the industrial backbone of America, even if, as a former businessman, he will probably be less hostile to free trade as president than his rhetoric suggests.

One industry that promises to replace the jobs that were lost in manufacturing is energy, shale gas in particular. In the last four years, up to 600,000 jobs were added as a result of the shale gas revolution. In the Rust Belt states, where the coal workforce has shrunk by 90 percent in the last forty years, working-class unemployment can be reduced as a consequence.

Beyond employment in the energy sector, lower electricity prices as a result of cheap natural gas create opportunities in the chemical industries. The Wall Street Journal reported in October that the United States are now among “the most profitable places in the world to make chemicals and fertilizer, industries that use gas as both a feedstock and an energy source. And they have slashed costs for makers of energy intensive products such as aluminum, steel and glass.”

Mitt Romney’s plan for North American energy independence by 2020, which includes expanding drilling for oil and natural gas in the United States, stands in contrast to the president’s policies which have been more hostile to domestic energy production. Obama imposed fuel efficiency standards which increase the price of gasoline while his Environmental Protection Agency has been reluctant to issue permits for shale oil and gas exploration. The president also blocked construction of an oil pipeline from Canada to Houston, Texas, to the delight of his environmental base but angering labor union supporters.

The power of organized labor, particularly in Ohio and Wisconsin, nonetheless helps explain why working-class voters in these states are more likely to vote for Democrats than in most of the rest of the country. They help finance the Democratic Party’s election campaigns and get out the vote on election day. Indeed, the president already has the advantage in early voting in Ohio, although by a slimmer margin than he did in 2008.

Also working in Obama’s favor in the northeast is the belief that Mitt Romney opposed the 2008 bailouts that saved two American carmakers from bankruptcy and preserved tens of thousands of manufacturing jobs.

Although the Republican didn’t write the words “Let Detroit go bankrupt,” which was the title The New York Times gave to an opinion article he authored that year, and although his proposed policy was actually very similar to what the president ultimately did, the belief that he opposed the rescue of Chrysler and General Motors is widespread and confirms many voters’ suspicions of him as an “out-of-touch” millionaire who will do little to improve the economic prospects of the common man.

Democrats, of course, have gladly exploited Romney’s image problem with television commercials in which were shown the plants that he closed and the workers that he fired when he was chairman and chief executive of the Bain Capital investment firm.

The Michigan native, whose father was president of the American Motors Corporation for eight years, allayed the concerns of some voters in his first televised debate with Barack Obama in which he was seen as far more persuasive on economic and fiscal policy. Whether it was persuasive enough for him to carry at least two states in the northeast remains to be seen.

In preelection polls, the candidates were neck and neck in all five northeastern battleground states although the president had the advantage in most surveys.

Why Worry About America’s Trade Deficit?

Fog in the Houston Ship Channel, Texas, February 21, 2008
Fog in the Houston Ship Channel, Texas, February 21, 2008 (Louis Vest)

Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney complained in his debate with Barack Obama last week that America’s trade deficit with China is “growing larger every year.” The president countered that exports to China have increased during his term in office — not doubled as he claimed, though — suggesting that he, too, would be concerned about a trade deficit.

Why? Read more

Mitt Romney Offers Real Hope of Change

Republican Party presidential candidate Mitt Romney
Republican Party presidential candidate Mitt Romney (Romney for President)

If an election is primarily a referendum on the incumbent, Barack Obama does not deserve to be reelected this November.

When he came to office, the Democrat promised to transcend the traditional party divides to cut the federal budget deficit in half and revitalize the nation’s economy.

Four years later, none of those promises have been met. The political culture in Washington is more toxic than ever.

Much of the blame is usually laid on the “intransigence” of Republicans who, pressured by the conservative Tea Party movement, have supposedly moved so far to the right that it has become impossible to do a deal with them. But when House speaker John Boehner last year agreed to $800 billion in revenue increases over the next ten years — despite Republicans’ pledge not to raise taxes — it was the president who gutted the possibility of a grand bargain by demanding an additional $400 billion in revenue at the last minute, something Boehner felt couldn’t get his conference to accept.

The president’s insensitiveness to Republican concerns may explain his inability to forge compromise with the other party. What is often ignored is that the Democrats under his leadership have become openly protective of big government and sometimes dismissive of free enterprise in ways they haven’t been since before the Bill Clinton years. Both parties are now more attuned to their fringes.

Obama doesn’t seem likely to bring his party to the middle again in order to find common ground with Republicans who will likely retain their majority in the House of Representatives after next week’s election.

Contrast that with Mitt Romney’s tenure in Massachusetts, one of the most left-wing states in the country, where he successfully worked with a Democratic legislature to balance the budget in the last two fiscal years of his governorship through a combination of spending cuts and tax increases.

Romney has promised not to raise taxes as president, but, if elected, he will likely to have to work with a Democratic majority in the Senate. Unlike the president, he has a record of bipartisanship and pragmatism which suggests that he may be able to put together a comprehensive budget agreement that puts the United States on a sounder fiscal trajectory.

The need for such reform is pressing. Barack Obama grew federal discretionary spending, excluding defense, 24 percent during the first three years of his presidency, adding $734 billion in projected spending over the next decade. Only this fiscal year will the deficit fall below $1 trillion even if several more trillion dollars will be added to the national debt in the coming years unless significant budget changes are made.

Yet the president dismissed the recommendations of his own commission for fiscal reform as well as three Republican budget plans, two of which were authored by Romney’s vice presidential candidate, Paul Ryan.

He claimed to be willing to “make tough choices” but never presented a credible plan for long-term fiscal consolidation.

He rejected all Republican suggestions for entitlement reform but never volunteered a solution of his own, even if those programs are the main drivers of the debt’s growth in the long term.

Romney, by contrast, has endorsed Ryan’s Medicare reform agenda, which would introduce competition and choice to seniors’ health care and control costs.

The Republican also advocates a 20 percent income tax cut, although he hasn’t been able to explain how he would pay for it except by phasing out deductions and closing loopholes. Simplifying the tax code is necessary but if the numbers don’t add up it could widen the deficit. Romney may have overpromised in this regard but is more likely to adopt a realistic program of fiscal reform than the president, whose only concrete policy solution is raise taxes on the rich.

Both candidates say they favor a corporate tax reduction which would improve America’s competitiveness relative to other industrialized nations. The president has had nearly four years to accomplish this but never pressed Congress to do it. Instead, American competitiveness has declined four years in a row. Business confidence has faded as a result of repeated government interventions in the private sector and new regulations in energy, finance and health care.

The president’s rhetoric doesn’t suggest he will be a greater proponent of free enterprise and free trade in a second term. Rather, he calls for an “economic patriotism” which sounds like protectionism.

He has prioritized environmental concerns over the full exploitation of American coal and natural gas resources as well as the jobs that can be won in both industries. While he is keen to point out that American oil production and petroleum exports have risen in the last four years, it’s in spite, not because of his policies, which included a moratorium on deepwater drilling in the Gulf of Mexico, blocking the extension of an oil pipeline from Canada to Houston, Texas and the implementation of Renewable Fuel Standards which drive up the price of gasoline.

Romney promises to increase fossil fuel production. That would not only reduce electricity and gasoline prices but create jobs. Since 2008, up to 600,000 jobs have been added in the shale gas industry alone. This is an energy revolution that Romney is far more likely to support than Obama.

Barack Obama promised to bring “change” to government and hasn’t. The real change in next week’s presidential election is offered by Republicans who have repudiated the fiscally reckless “compassionate conservatism” of the George W. Bush years in favor of a common-sense, small-government conservatism the United States need desperately.

Atlantic Sentinel Responds to Final Obama-Romney Debate

Presidential candidates Mitt Romney and Barack Obama participate in a televised debate at Lynn University in Boca Raton, Florida, October 22
Presidential candidates Mitt Romney and Barack Obama participate in a televised debate at Lynn University in Boca Raton, Florida, October 22 (Obama for America/Scout Tufankjian)

Incumbent president Barack Obama and his Republican challenger, Mitt Romney, debated foreign policy in Boca Raton, Florida tonight in what was their third and last televised debate before November’s election.

The Atlantic Sentinel‘s Christopher Whyte said the debate was “not a blowout for either candidate.” Both held their positions well on a number of fronts, he said.

However, it is fairly clear that Obama came out on top, even if only by a bit. Romney agreed with Obama so many times that it almost seemed to be the template for responses that had been decided upon beforehand. Obama clearly came to attack and prove himself the master of foreign policy that he, as commander-in-chief, is.

Romney, by contrast, “still has a lot to prove if he wants to be taken seriously as a strong leader,” said Whyte.

Steve Keller said Obama effectively defused two Republican attack lines.

By pivoting to stories of his trip to Israel and anecdotes about the people he saw and the things he experienced, he took a lot of the power out of the Republican line that he’s anti-Israel.

Moreover, the president came out of the debate with taking any serious punches on the Benghazi consulate attack.

All of this week’s windup was for a punch that never came but perhaps that’s because there was no way to land it.

In spite of those two issues, Daniel DePetris found it striking just how many similarities the candidates when it came to foreign policy.

Stripped of the political rhetoric and the bombastic television ads, the policy proposals that Obama and Romney have on many important global issues are roughly identical. Both were clear and direct in vowing that Iran would never have a nuclear weapon on their watch. Both were supportive of withdrawing troops from Afghanistan by the end of 2014. Both agreed that Israel is America’s most trusted friend in the Middle East. Both agree that the United States cannot slide back to the days of isolation when the world is confronted with so many challenges.

DePetris agreed Obama came out stronger but “Romney came away as someone who has a grasp of how complex the world can be,” he said.

Atlantic Sentinel Responds to Second Obama-Romney Debate

President Barack Obama participates in a televised debate with Republican Mitt Romney at Hofstra University, Hempstead, New York, October 16
President Barack Obama participates in a televised debate with Republican Mitt Romney at Hofstra University, Hempstead, New York, October 16 (Obama for America/Scout Tufankjian)

President Barack Obama and his Republican challenger, Mitt Romney, met in Hempstead, New York on Tuesday night for their second televised debate before November’s election.

The stakes were particularly high for the incumbent whose lackluster performance in the first debate in Colorado two weeks ago disappointed many Democrats.

The Atlantic Sentinel‘s Daniel DePetris said both candidates seemed prepared on virtually every issue.

President Obama was far more aggressive and persuasive than he was during the first debate but Mitt Romney again performed well.

While much of the debate was focused on domestic policy, Obama clearly won the foreign-policy section, DePetris said.

When the Libya issue came up, he provided an answer that was abundantly supported by many in the room. But what he also did was frame Romney’s argument on the terrorist attacks as mired in politics. The Republican failed to offer a convincing rebuttal.

Steve Keller agreed this was Romney’s most unfortunate surprise of the night.

What was potentially his best issue, the consulate attack in Benghazi, was blunted by Mitt Romney overplaying his hand, resulting in an impassioned response from President Obama decrying the Republican for accusing his administration of politicization and a quick, on the spot fact check from Candy Crowley.

Chief Editor Nick Ottens said Obama’s strong criticism of Romney almost made him seem the challenger.

As in the previous debate, the president didn’t say much about what he would do in a second term but was aggressive this time, perhaps too aggressive for the centrist, blue-collar voter in Ohio, Virginia and Wisconsin whom he must persuade that his program is one of jobs, not left-wing ideology.

Romney’s argument was pretty straightforward. We don’t have to settle for unemployment at a chronically high level.” Ottens admitted it wasn’t inspiring.

Romney’s strategy is to appear competent. It’s doubtful if that’s enough to get him the 270 electoral votes he needs to win in November.

Romney has trailed the president in national opinion polls as well as most of the nine critical swing states where neither party holds a decisive lead. He has managed to close the gap in Virginia and is even ahead a bit in Florida. Obama still has a two-point advantage in Ohio. These three states, with a combined thirty electoral votes, could determine the outcome of the presidential election.