The speculation regarding the eventual Republican vice-presidential candidate has begun. Will it be Marco Rubio, the upstart senator from Florida? Or perhaps New Mexico Governor Susana Martinez? Or how about Sen. Rob Portman of Ohio, former director of the Office of Management and Budget? The interest in the Republican veepstakes seems more intense than usual this year because of a general sense of drabness regarding presumptive presidential nominee Mitt Romney, and the prevailing notion that Republicans have “settled” on a nominee they aren’t really excited about, and thus need to add some spice at the bottom of the ticket.
But such furor misses the central story in politics today: that Romney may indeed be the man of our national moment. America is looking for someone who can articulate a optimistic yet viable vision for the future, and who can start to turn things around: someone who can take us out of our national funk — which Washington has not been making better, but worse — and get us back on track, and then some.
In the mid-term elections of 2010, the electorate was unhappy, and demanded change. Even groups who had traditionally voted Democratic — e.g., women — gave the GOP a try. But there’s only so much you can change when the president’s not on the ballot. And in 2012, the causes of discontent (most notably, unemployment and economic uncertainty), some of which are the direct result of the current president and his policies, remain. With this and some of the other issues (including religious liberty) on the table, this election could be bigger than 1980, when another sunny Republican took on a beleaguered Democratic incumbent — just the right man with just the right skill set to be a transformational leader.
“I do think Romney is exceedingly well suited to this particular moment and what it requires,” says Yuval Levin, editor of National Affairs, a quarterly journal. “What’s needed is basically the modernization of the American economy, and especially of the American public sector, and that kind of modernization ... is what Romney has always done well.”
Jay Cost, author of the upcoming book “Spoiled Rotten: How the Politics of Patronage Corrupted the Once Noble Democratic Party and Now Threatens the American Republic,” says: “I think the biggest lesson Romney should take from Reagan was the latter’s singular focus on restoring American greatness ... This helped him win the election ... but it also gave him a real mandate to implement his tax-cut plan in the summer of 1981.”
With the right policies and some inspiration, a President Romney could use the office of the president to “spur entrepreneurs, manufacturers, the rest of the private sector, and the American people to new heights,” insists Al Felzenberg, presidential historian and author of “The Leaders We Deserved (And a Few We Didn’t): Rethinking the Presidential Rating Game.” Romney could accomplish this not through “stimulus,” but by removing the handicapping effects of an enlarged federal government.
This is a time for serious debate and consideration, and Mitt Romney is a candidate whose record and rhetoric suggest he might just know what he’s doing. Surely, his running mate will help articulate his vision, but the No. 2 isn’t everything.
“Winning the future,” to borrow a phrase, is not only possible, it’s our duty. The resources are there, and the leader is there. It’s time for America to choose.
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