Before reading this, you might want to read my political disclaimers which explain why I would bother writing about politics and briefly outline my general beliefs about politics and the Christian’s responsibility.
Many of my Evangelical brethren have jumped onto the Rick Santorum bandwagon recently, and it’s not difficult to see why. I heard him speak at a fundraiser for Caring to Love Ministries, a local crisis pregnancy center, and I found him to be sincere and engaging, and honestly, the story of his personal journey to recognizing and protecting the sanctity of life left me in tears. I have no doubt that he is the candidate whose view on life issues most closely mirrors my own and whom I trust the most to stand for those issues once in office.
That being said, when it comes time for me to cast my ballot in the Republican primary, I will be voting for Mitt Romney, not Santorum or any of the other candidates that many Evangelicals also seem to prefer. I suspect that Romney’s Mormonism is a problem for many so here’s why I’m willing to overlook that.
As I see it, in any election, there are 3 main questions we should consider when looking at a candidate:
- Does he share my views and values? For me, in a national election this means holding conservative views in regards to the economy, social issues, and foreign policy (which includes national defense and border protection).
- Is he electable? In a primary, I do not want to nominate someone that has zero chance of winning the general election if there might be a slightly less preferable candidate that actually has a chance to win. In a general election, I will not vote for a third-party candidate with no shot to win if the lesser-of-two-evils major-party candidate has a chance to win.
- Is he experienced? In a presidential election, I believe executive and economic experience are just as important as political experience. Career politicians are not preferable, but neither is someone with zero political experience.
Everyone’s views on how those questions should be interpreted will vary depending on their beliefs and how much importance they put on certain issues. But for me, Mitt Romney is the only one who meets those three criteria.
Does he share my views and values?
People seem to forget that Romney was widely considered the most conservative candidate in the 2008 primaries. In fact, he is the only candidate this time around who is conservative on the economy, social issues, and foreign policy. Ron Paul meets the first 2 but is libertarian on foreign policy. Rick Santorum is obviously conservative on social issues, probably on foreign policy, but his record in Congress shows someone who has no problem with a big government and a big federal budget.
The biggest (really, only) strike against Romney’s conservatism is the so-called Romneycare, a Massachusetts health-care bill that is similar to Obamacare and was passed during Romney’s term as governor. But the Massachusetts bill was a state program (so it wasn’t unconstitutional), had overwhelming popular support (which Obamacare doesn’t), and Romney vetoed many of the more egregious parts of the Massachusetts bill (only to have the legislature override the vetoes). And the fact that Santorum and Newt Gingrich also both supported an individual healthcare mandate, as well as the fact that Romney has fired the most frequent and accurate shots at Obamacare by any candidate not named Ron Paul, means this isn’t as big a mark on Romney’s record as it otherwise might be. Romney also, as governor of Massachusetts, vetoed bills that would have legalized partial birth abortion and gay marriage and cut the state budget, even though both had negative impact on his approval ratings.
If Romney’s fiscal views were any more conservative, they’d be Ron Paul’s views. If his social views were any more conservative, they’d be Santorum’s. Of the two 2-term Republican presidents in recent history (Ronald Reagan and George W. Bush), Romney is more like Reagan (fiscally and socially conservative), while Santorum is more like Bush (fiscally moderate and socially conservative), and I fully expect Romney will govern more like Reagan than like Bush.
Is he electable?
Romney became the first candidate ever to win both the Iowa Caucus and New Hampshire Primary since they became the first 2 contests in the election cycle. He is the only candidate who is capable of winning the general election. Most of the other candidates have never won an election outside of their own, small, majority-Republican districts. Rick Perry has never won an election outside the state of Texas, which is mostly Republican. Jon Huntsman is the same with Utah. Rick Santorum is from Pennsylvania, which is of course isn’t Republican like Texas, Utah, or Georgia (Gingrich’s homestate), but does have plenty of so-called “Reagan Democrats”: blue-collared workers who voted for Reagan and who tend to be socially conservative and fiscally moderate … just like Santorum. Mitt Romney is the only Republican candidate who has ever won an election in an overwhelmingly Blue state. When coupled with the fact that he’s the most consistently conservative candidate, that’s mighty impressive. In addition, according to Rasmussen Reports, which is the most accurate political surveyor out there, Romney’s numbers when pitted head-to-head against President Obama are much stronger than any other Republican candidate’s.
Is he experienced?
Romney is the only Republican candidate who has executive, economic, and political experience. Ron Paul and Newt Gingrich have only served in the House of Representatives. Santorum’s experience is limited to the House and the Senate. There is a reason why more presidents have been elected from their states’ governor’s mansions than from Congress. Career legislators typically have trouble adjusting to being an executive. There’s a big difference between being one of hundreds in Congress and the person with whom the buck ultimately stops. And I believe we have seen further evidence of that during this current administration.
Of those with executive experience, Huntsman inherited his wealth, and Perry is a career politician. Romney, on the other hand, was extremely successful as an executive in the private sector and saved the U.S. Olympic Committee from scandal and financial disaster, in addition to serving as the chief executive of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts. If a strike against President Obama’s election was his inexperience, Mitt Romney would become one of the most qualified and experienced men to ascend to the Presidency in recent memory.
Do I wish that Romney wasn’t a Mormon? Of course. Do I wish there was an evangelical out there who was experienced and electable and who shared my political and economic beliefs as well as my religious ones? Absolutely. But Mormonism does share the Judeo-Christian values on which our system of government depends. (I would have a much bigger problem voting for a Muslim or adherent to an Eastern religion for the reason that they don’t share those Judeo-Christian values.) And if Evangelical Protestants could vote for Ronald Reagan, whose wife held seances in the White House, or even Rick Santorum, a Catholic (albeit a somewhat Evangelical one), then I think they can vote for a Mormon. At the very least Romney’s Mormonism means he has stronger morals than some of the other candidates or former Presidents who were Christian in name only.