As many in the GOP scramble to find a candidate, there have been calls for anyone but Romney. Efforts are already underway to brand Romney as a RINO. Such a label is profoundly inaccurate and hurts the Republican Party’s best chance at recapturing the White House in 2012.
Romney’s acumen as an executive stands out in any field of candidates and this one in particular. From his extraordinary success in the private sector, Romney can speak credibly about the economy and job creation. His fiscal conservatism reaches beyond balanced budgets in the short-term. As governor of Massachusetts, Romney not only balanced the budget every year without raising taxes but also rescued the Commonwealth’s Stabilization Fund, also known as the “rainy day fund.” By the time Romney left office in 2007, the fund held $2.3 billion.
Contrast this record with that of former Minnesota Governor Tim Pawlenty, who is seen as one of Romney’s strongest challengers for the Republican nomination. In his efforts to balance Minnesota’s budget, Pawlenty emptied his state’s rainy day fund. Before he entered office in 2003, the state’s budget reserve contained $653 million. By 2010, Pawlenty’s last year in office, the balance of the account was zero. Is that the mark of someone serious about entitlement reform and the national debt? Such a record inspires little confidence in Pawlenty’s ability to successfully tackle these long-term problems.
And yet, in spite of his fiscally conservative credentials, Romney continues to endure criticism from conservatives primarily because of his support for universal healthcare in Massachusetts. In 2008, it would have been difficult to imagine that Romneycare could become Romney’s greatest political liability. At a fundraiser in Massachusetts during the 2008 primaries, Romney even joked that the fact that he and Senator Ted Kennedy agreed on a piece of legislation might have meant one of them hadn’t read it.
Now that Romney takes heat for the fact that his plan is cited as the blueprint for Obamacare, he continues to offer the same defense he gave in 2008: namely, that Romneycare is imperfect and not intended as a “one size fits all” plan. At a speech in January 2007, for example, Romney admitted: “I can’t tell you that what we came up with in Massachusetts is the only and best solution.” Such an explanation did not stop National Review from endorsing him for the Republican nomination in 2008 as “the most conservative viable candidate.” And it should not stop conservatives from supporting him today.
Conservatives need to accept the reality that Romney had two options governing a state as blue as Massachusetts. The first option: reach across the aisle and govern. The second: stand against the Democratic legislature and get nothing done. The first can be politically risky; the latter can be politically reckless. Why should Romney apologize for choosing leadership over posturing?
After all, restoring conservative principles in America and securing our nation’s economic future will require a president willing to take political risks. Romney has proven himself up to the task of taking on challenges as insurmountable as the debt and entitlement reform. Throughout his tenure as governor of Massachusetts, for instance, he closed corporate tax loopholes, a move which increased state revenue to close the deficit. This is precisely the kind of necessary tax reform outlined in Representative Paul Ryan’s Roadmap for America’s Future. Our problems require more than a truth-teller, and Romney’s pursuit of fiscal solvency demonstrates his ability to execute.
Romney has also stood strong on foreign policy. He has been an outspoken critic of the Iranian and Syrian regimes and the American Left’s policy of engagement with other anti-American dictators. Last year, Romney did not hesitate to criticize President Obama’s New START Treaty for jeopardizing American security by giving a nuclear weapon advantage to Russia while failing to address tactical nuclear weapons. Most recently, he came to the defense of Israel, saying that the president “has thrown Israel under the bus” and “undermined its ability to negotiate peace.”
Over the course of the past few weeks, several of my friends have graduated college without a job. America desperately needs a serious fiscal conservative. Romney is more than the GOP’s best shot at taking back the White House in 2012: he is the best option for America if we want to confront the crisis of competence, replace the excesses of ideology with fiscal sanity, and restore economic growth. My generation cannot afford four more years of fiscal recklessness. It is time for a conservative who can govern and get America back to work. It is time for Mitt Romney.
Lauren Noble is a 2011 graduate of Yale University.