The PJ Tatler

Romney and the Four Aces

I missed tonight’s debate so I’m catching up, and find myself curious at Mitt Romney’s claim that Gov. Perry was “dealt four aces” as governor of Texas. This simply isn’t true.

It is true that Texas has no state income tax (thanks to resistance from the Republicans, more about that below), low regulation, that it’s a right to work state, and that it has oil in the ground. Only one of those three was beyond public policy, obviously the oil. And Obama has done all he can to make it harder to get that oil where it can be used. I suppose Romney hasn’t noticed the Obama EPA’s crusade against the energy industry in Texas and across the Gulf South.

But the fact is, as the Texas Democrats lost power in 2002 they attempted to force the Republicans to raise taxes massively in the next legislative session, by leaving the state in a $10 billion hole. They did this intentionally, to set up an environment in which they believed the Republicans and Perry would be forced to levy a state income tax or raise taxes across the board in some other way. This would discredit the Republicans and return the Democrats to power. Gov. Perry and the Republicans cut spending instead. They stood their ground despite the Democrats’ set-up and fierce and relentless criticism from the Texas media. Gov. Perry and the Republicans could have moved left toward more regulation. They didn’t. They could have weakened or undone the state’s right-to-work laws. But they didn’t. Gov. Perry and the state’s Republicans knew the principles that led them to power, and they stood on them through some difficult times.

Mitt Romney, when he was governor of Massachusetts, ran and governed to the left. That was his choice. He didn’t have to. We’ve seen this year that a Republican governor can govern a blue state from the center right, stand on principle and win the political battles, enact strong and sensible conservative policies, and do right by his state. Gov. Scott Walker has provided a stellar example of how a conservative can thrive in a blue state and change it for the better. Whatever Mitt Romney’s true principles are, he governed Massachusetts as a run of the mill liberal. ObamneyCare, as Tim Pawlenty once eloquently described it, is among the results.

Mitt Romney’s tenure just doesn’t hold a candle to Walker’s. And he should get his Texas history right before dismissing the state’s Republicans’ accomplishments. Put it this way: There’s a reason the Republicans took power in this formerly Democratic stronghold, and there’s a reason they’ve kept it and built upon it. And there’s a reason Wisconsin is likely to trend red for a while, and there’s a reason that Massachusetts won’t. The reason can be stated in one word: Leadership.