With Daniels Out, GOP’s Best Bet Is ...

About a year ago, I thought a Daniels-Ryan GOP ticket for the 2012 presidential race would have been ideal. Alas, Gov. Mitch Daniels is not running for the presidency. Neither is Haley Barbour, Mike Huckabee, Donald Trump, Mike Pence, John Thune, or Jim DeMint. Chris Christie, Rick Perry, and Jeb Bush probably won’t run either. Paul Ryan would still make a good VP choice, but he isn’t running for president.

Michele Bachmann, Herman Cain, Ron Paul, Gary Johnson, and Rick Santorum are all “dark horse” candidates. They stand little chance. Jon Huntsman is too liberal (and was in the Obama administration). Newt Gingrich’s campaign is already in trouble. Sarah Palin, I think, knows this isn’t her time.

That leaves Tim Pawlenty and Mitt Romney. Lame, I know. But Pawlenty’s lamer. Against President Obama, I will take Mitt Romney. Furthermore, Romney’s running mate should be Rep. Allen West. Romney-West 2012 would be very formidable. Let’s start with Romney.

We know Romney’s downfalls. He’s Ward Cleaver. Too clean. He’s “inauthentic,” an “establishment” politician. That’s unpopular these days. GOP primary voters want someone real, someone outside of politics; a self-made citizen reluctantly running for public office to save the day. Romney, on the other hand, has been running for president for six years. Then there is Romney’s health care bill which he passed in Massachusetts as governor.  President Obama loves to thank and jibe Romney for setting the example on health care reform. It makes Obama’s awful health insurance law look moderate and undermines conservative criticism of it.

All this and more is true. But consider Romney’s strengths. He’s well known. He’s electable. He polls well against Obama. He looks and acts “presidential” (whatever that means). He’s been a governor of a state, an executive in the private sector, and he ran the 2002 Olympics in Salt Lake City. He’s disciplined, articulate, and well-versed in domestic and foreign policy. Romney will be quick to hit Obama on jobs and the economy, on the debt and deficit. When Obama holds Osama bin Laden’s scalp in front of the cameras, Romney won’t hesitate to say, “Yes, Mr. President. Good job. Now let’s talk about how the intelligence that was used for the operation was gathered.”

With Daniels out, Romney’s the frontrunner. And yet he doesn’t seem to be preferred by much of anyone. He can fix that a number of ways. First, he ought to “go big” on foreign policy. Libya, Iran, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Iraq, Israel, China –– these are the issues, yes. But the big issue is our standing in the world. Obama has made it weaker. Romney ought to go big on domestic issues, as well. Unemployment and taxes are a problem. But entitlement insolvency is the heart of the matter. Fiscal issues are a worry. But monetary issues are paramount. Will someone other than Ron Paul ever speak about monetary policy? The opening for Romney is there to seize.

On health care and other issues, he must prove to conservatives that they will be able to hold a President Romney’s feet to the fire. Romney must clarify and champion his newfound federalism. He must promise to repeal ObamaCare. Period. He must seek to win over some of the libertarian-wing of the Republican Party with a sincere defense of states' rights. That means getting with the times and not being an obstinate idiot about the drug war. That means respecting the Tenth Amendment.