It’s clear the Republican primary electorate wants someone other than Mitt Romney as the GOP presidential candidate. Poll numbers show voters are desperately seeking out an alternative, as Hermain Cain has soared to the top. And there has been an almost desperate attempt to find an alternative candidate – first with Gov. Rick Perry in August, then Gov. Chris Christie in September. But nevertheless, Romney has largely fashioned himself into the “inevitable” candidate.
Last night, however, may have changed all that.
Romney’s polished debate performances in September certainly helped launch him to frontrunner status; but in Las Vegas, something happened. For the first time, it appeared the other candidates decided to put their foot down. And the theme of last night’s debate became, Mitt Romney: prevaricator-in-chief.
From health care reform to immigration policy, the bottom line is Romney can’t be trusted. Santorum led the charge, attacking Romney on his signature Massachusetts health care program:
What you did with a top-down, government-run program was focus on the problem of health care access. You expanded the pool of insurance without controlling costs. You’ve blown a hole in the budget up there. And you authored in Obamacare, which is going to blow a hole in the budget of this country.
Gingrich piled on, adding that RomneyCare:
essentially is one more big government, bureaucratic, high-cost system, which candidly could not have been done by any other state because no other state had a Medicare program as lavish as yours, and no other state got as much money from the federal government under the Bush administration for this experiment.
Caught off guard, Romney tried to defend his health care policy, by saying that the (liberal) people of Massachusetts “like it by about a 3-1 margin,” and then pointed the finger back at Gingrich saying, “Newt, we got the idea of an individual mandate from you. . . yes, from the Heritage Foundation and from you.”
Well, if that’s not passing the buck, I’m not sure what is. There’s perhaps nothing worse than an unprincipled politician than one who can’t even pretend to stand behind his own policies.
Romney has, in effect, been campaigning for five years and is polished beyond perfection behind the podium; but no amount of preparation can cover up the fact that he doesn’t maintain an intuitive commitment to limited government. His only defense of RomneyCare is that it came from the “conservative” Heritage Foundation. It may do him well to see what some of the other free-market oriented think tanks have been writing about health care. Not only has the Heritage Foundation backtracked on its original support for an individual mandate, but I’m confident if Romney spoke with economists and health care experts at the Cato Institute, AEI, the Hoover Institution, and others he would find that there is widespread disapproval of any kind of government-mandated health care plan.
But it didn’t stop with health care. According to his competitors, Romney has been lying about his views on immigration policy, too. It started when Perry accused Romney of not telling the truth about illegal workers he had on his property. Even after the newspaper “brought it to your attention,” Perry attacked, you still “had those individuals working for you” a year later.
Again, Romney failed to defend his actions with any kind of principled stand against illegal immigration; rather, he made the absolutely absurd comment: “I’m running for office, for Pete’s sake, I can’t have illegals.”
In the end, what Romney may have in confidence he lacks in authenticity, and it came through last night. The fact is Republicans still aren’t really sure where the Massachusetts governor stands on the issues – and for good reason. He doesn’t really know where he stands.
Voters want someone who honestly believes in the principles of constitutionally limited government, individual rights, and market-based reforms. And it’s not clear Romney truly supports any of that.