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Thursday, January 12, 2012

Romney vs. Paul Would Make Long, Protracted Primary Fight Worth It

AP File Photo

As the focus of the race for the 2012 GOP nomination turns t0 South Carolina, two apparent realities cannot be ignored: (1) Mitt Romney has the nomination all but locked up, and (2) Ron Paul must be taken seriously as a presidential contender. At least one of these will no doubt be hard to swallow for many Republican faithful, but acceptance of reality is a necessary characteristic of any true Republican in our country today. The facts are thus: Mitt Romney placed first in both the Iowa caucuses and the New Hampshire primary, and he's leading all the national polls in the race for the GOP nomination. He also leads every poll I've seen out of South Carolina in recent days. Other than Romney, the only Republican to break 20% in both Iowa and New Hampshire so far this cycle is Ron Paul. None of this is up for debate. Now, what can we gleam from these facts?

What I've concluded is that Mitt Romney is going to be our nominee in the general election (barring his sudden death or some other unforseen act of God), and Ron Paul is not the loony-tune fringe candidate he was four years ago. If you're just going by vote totals so far, then Dr. Paul is the only candidate who should be regarded as a credible, serious challenger to Mitt Romney for the GOP nomination. Yet, he is the only one of the five alternatives who is not. Why? Many reasons, not all of which warrant mention here. I personally would not want our party to nominate someone who voted against the Patriot Act and still opposes it to this day, who declined to state that he would have authorized the Navy SEALs to kill Osama bin Laden, and who wants to get rid of the Federal Reserve. (The continued existence of the Fed is a debate worth having, but suffice it to say for now that I don't want to go back to the time when "panics" were a routine occurrence.) Nevertheless, there are substantive disagreements I have with at least one position taken by each of the candidates for president this year. I'm sure most Republicans feel the same way.

This brings me to my thesis du jour: if the race for the Republican nomination were to quickly come down to a two-man contest between two candidates who both had a realistic path to the nomination, then a Romney-Paul showdown would be the only protracted primary battle worth having. Think about it: An existensial debate, not just over the platform of the GOP in the 21st Century, but about the issues that will no doubt be litigated in the general election: the role of government in people's lives, the role of the U.S. on the world stage, how best to prosecute the War on Terror, how soon and how deeply to cut federal spending. Wouldn't that be more exciting (and more intellectually satisfying) than this hackneyed tripe about "vulture capitalism" or Super-PACs?

As ferociously as the Paul campaign has gone after his opponents, he rightfully came to Mitt Romney's defense after the others piled on him over his record as CEO of Bain Capital. This was just the latest example of Paul's maturity as a candidate and the Bohemian approach that has always characterized his campaign style. Romney, too, has refrained from the petty politics of drive-by attacks aimed at scoring cheap political points; he hasn't addressed Newt Gingrich's various personal transgressions, Rick Santorum's borderline-homophobic remarks or Rick Perry's obvious lack of ... well, let's just say "book smarts". He did take a cheap shot (in my opinion) at Jon Huntsman for the latter's service as Ambassador to China, but this was far from the ad hominem attacks that the others have engaged in.

A fervent, extended primary fight between Ron and Romney would be good for our party and our country. Sadly, it is not to be. Right-wing Genius out!

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