#1: Romney Provides a Real Hope of Change

In summary, you may want to consider voting for Romney if you desire change, and if you look forward to something better than the past four years has offered. You may want to vote for Romney if:

– You believe that Wahington is broken by partisan wrangling and you want a President with a proven track record of working with both parties
– You want to see a candidate who has a track record of creating a positive working environment for women within his Massachusetts administration, while his opponent who — although passionate about women’s rhetoric — created a hostile workplace for women in the White House
– You believe that a candidate with a proven track record as a problem solver is more likely to help the United States solve its budget crisis so we can avoid following the path of countries like Greece into economic chaos
– You believe that pursuing a pragmatic plan for energy independence would provide an economic dividend and a peace dividend
– You believe that a candidate with a consistent personal track record of compassionate and altruistic behavior is the kind of person who can be trusted with high office

If you look forward to a better, brighter future, Mitt Romney may be the candidate for you.

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Why a Moderate Voter Should Consider Romney, #8: Understanding and Compassion

Grant Bennett spoke at the Republican National Convention about Mitt Romney’s service as a lay pastor. Grant explained that Mitt volunteered up to 20 hours a week when he was serving as a lay pastor, helping people with the full range of personal problems: unemployment, sickness, financial distress, loneliness, marital problems, addiction, challenges faced by single mothers, and separation from family faced by immigrants. Mitt listened, he helped, and he demonstrated compassion. With the assistance of his congregation, Mitt provided food and housing, rides to the doctor, and companionship for those facing illness. He also performed physical acts of service, including raking leaves and sweeping floors. Grant concluded the address by expressing gratitude for having been tutored by Mitt, who he described as a “deeply good man”.

Pat and Ted Oparowski also spoke at the convention about their experience as church members who were blessed by caring service from Mitt Romney. Their son, David, was diagnosed with cancer. Mitt visited David on many occasions. Once, 14 year-old David asked Mitt to help him write a will so that he could divide up his prized possessions, such as his skateboard and his fishing gear. In addition to recording David’s will, Mitt gave the boy a thoughtful gift to bring him cheer during his illness and honored the boy’s request to deliver the eulogy at his funeral.

Pam Finlayson told the Republican convention about the first time that Mitt visited her house. Because she didn’t have a dryer, laundry was hanging everywhere, and Mitt simply began collecting and folding the laundry with her.  She told of Mitt later visiting her premature baby in the hospital and stroking the baby’s back as tears filled his eyes. She described Mitt being “overcome with compassion” for their sick baby. At Thanksgiving time, Mitt and his family brought Pam’s family a Thanksgiving dinner. Mitt’s wife, Ann, told Pam that Mitt had done most of the shopping and cooking. Pam said that Mitt didn’t just believe in loving his neighbor, he practiced it.

In addition to his time as a lay pastor (1981-1994), Mitt also spent two and a half years volunteering as a missionary, beginning at the age of 19. Just as Mormon lay pastors spend their time working with those facing challenges, so to do Mormon missionaries spend their time – in very large measure – talking with and working among those facing challenges. They meet people from a broader diversity of backgrounds than most Americans have a chance to meet in their daily lives.

If we look at the whole scope of Romney’s lay service in the Mormon church, I think there is a convincing record of a man who honestly cares for others, who purposely has committed his time to serving others, and who — contrary to the mantra among his detractors — has plenty of first-hand experience that allows him to understand the challenges of everyday Americans.

Why an Independent Should Consider Romney, #9: Problem Solving

My previous blog entry commented on our national government being broken. With that background, what would be more appealing than a leader with a proven track record as a problem solver? Let’s take a look at Romney’s ability to solve problems in several different arenas.

1. Bain Capital problem solving – Romney’s firm specialized in seeking out troubled companies and turning them around. One of Romney’s detractors, a former member of Obama’s administration, gave a positive review of Romney’s record at Bain Capital:

Overall, Bain Capital’s record was extraordinary, among the best in the business…. Of course, a number of its early stage investments failed. That is the nature of venture capital — an industry not unlike baseball in that a .300 batting average can be an excellent performance. But who can quarrel with an investment firm trying to nurture and finance young companies? The story of the private equity business is somewhat more complicated. Almost by definition, a private equity investment is made with the hope of improving the profitability of the “portfolio company”…. Bain had less than its share of bankruptcies, but it had a few — it appears four — that are particularly troubling…. Let’s be sure to keep these few problem children in perspective. During the Romney years, Bain made 77 significant investments — and a number of smaller ones. It made billions for worthy investors and, yes, doubtless created some incalculable number of net new jobs for the U.S. economy.

2. Home problem solver – Mitt’s son Tagg describes his dad as someone who is constantly trying to solve problems:

“In his spare time, he wants to solve problems,” Tagg Romney said in an interview. “He wants to figure out, when he comes over to your house, he wants to figure out, ‘Well, your boiler’s not working. How are we going to fix the boiler?’ and ‘Have you noticed that some of your trees are dying out there? Why are your trees dying? What’s causing that? Can we figure that out, and can we go down to the hardware store and see if they’ve got something to fix that?’ And all of a sudden you see him driving a tractor in your backyard, and he’s pulling stuff up. He’s like, ‘Oh, these rocks were doing that.’ I mean, that’s just who he is.

3. Olympics turnaround – The Salt Lake Olympics were suffering from scandal ($1 million in bribes) as well as financial problems (projected debt of $397 million), when Romney was asked to take the reins. Romney’s COO at the Olympics praised Romney’s involvement in the Olympic turnaround:

It was in the midst of a scandal, and you only know how dark it was there if you were there…. Prospective sponsors, nobody would answer the phone. We had a budget deficit, the morale was very low…. [Romney] can see into a situation very quickly… He’s very facile with numbers. He’s got that raw intellect which lays a great foundation… He is a blast to work with. He’s very funny, he’s got a wonderful sense of humor; he has endless energy. It’s always hard for people to keep up with him, because he’s going at 90 miles an hour all the time.

In the end, attendance at the Olympics was up compared to previous Olympics, and the budget shortfall turned into a $56 million surplus. And Romney, who had said he would not accept a salary unless the Olympics ended in the black, turned over his Olympics salary to charity.

4. Bain & Company problem solving – Not only did Romney solve problems for companies in which Bain Capital made investments, Romney was also called on to turn around Bain Capital’s parent company (Bain & Company). Bain & Company was suffering from problems with debt and from dissatisfaction among employees and clients. Clay Christensen, a Harvard Business School professor, described Romney’s accomplishment in glowing terms:

There’s nobody that I can conceive of who could have come into that fractious situation, and pull that together…. I know Nancy Pelosi very well and I know a number of the Republican leaders…. Pulling those guys together is a lot easier than pulling Bain together.

5. Personal problem solver – Mitt Romney helped members of his congregation with personal problems while he served as a lay pastor in the LDS church. Ronnie Catalano and his wife credit Romney with saving their marriage.

‘Mitt was the one who really stood out. He was always caring about my family, my wife, my children,’ Catalano said in a recent interview. ‘He taught me how to keep my family together.’ ‘He saved us. He rescued us,’ added his wife.

6. Government problem solver – Mitt Romney inherited a state budget that faced a $3 billion shortfall and managed to generate budget surpluses by reducing spending, consolidating government agencies, increasing fees, and closing loopholes. He didn’t change the tax rates but still managed to set the state’s financial house in order. Even staffers who were helping one of his Repbulican opponents admitted Romney had a strong fiscal record in Massachusetts:

State Senator Bruce E. Tarr, also a co-chariman for Mr. Giuliani’s campaign, said Mr. Romney ‘provided some pretty strong fiscal discipline.’

I’ve been waiting my entire voting life for a President who would actually follow through on campaign promises of turning around the fiscal disaster of our national deficits. I have been successively disappointed by every Republican and Democratic President in my voting lifetime. With Romney’s track record of establishing fiscal discipline in the Olympics, in the corporate world, and in state government, and his overall record of being a creative problem solver, I’m willing to suspend disbelief for the first time in many years and hope that, finally, we might have a candidate who can pull it off.

Romney Destroys Santorum and Gingrich on Super Tuesday

We’ve seen many headlines tonight stating that the Super Tuesday states were split among the top three contenders, but the story those headlines are missing is that the delegate math delivered a much more decisive result.

Right now, Romney is leading in 7 Super Tuesday states (OH, VA, ID, WY, MA, VT, AK), Santorum in 3 (TN, OK, ND), and Gingrich in 1 (GA).

After today, Gingrich has become a non-candidate, racking up only one 1st place Super Tuesday finish (in his home state), with three 3rd place finishes, and six 4th-place finishes, and one contest in which he didn’t qualify for the ballot.

Santorum, on the other hand, in spite of racking up 3 “wins”, had a very poor showing in delegates. In all three states that he won, it appears likely that he will share a significant number of delegates with Romney. On the other hand, there are four states where Romney is picking up delegates in which Santorum will get few delegates or none: Georgia, where Santorum didn’t cross the necessary 20% threshold to score at-large delegates; Massachusetts, where Santorum didn’t cross the 15% threshold to score at-large delegates; Virginia, where Santorum didn’t qualify for the ballot; and Idaho, where it appears that Romney has captured all of the delegates by virtue of his commanding 67% majority.

And a final footnote on the battleground state of Ohio … even though Santorum had strong support among the Democrats in Ohio who voted in the Republican primary, it appears that Romney has clinched that state with 99.4% of the precincts reporting.

Check out Nate Silver’s site for some great analysis and the Huffington Post’s live update site for a nice “delegate math” dashboard showing the before-Super-Tuesday and after-Super-Tuesday results. The Huffington Post is currently showing 179 Super Tuesday delegates for Romney, 64 for Santorum, and 52 for Gingrich.

Gingrich and Santorum may not figure it out for some time, but the delegate writing is clearly on the wall.

Republican Primary: Who Has the Numbers?

There’s been lots of talk about the changing winds of the Republican primaries, but let’s take a careful look at the numbers from all of the contests that have been held so far and see where that leaves the final four contenders.

1) Total votes – Romney wins in this category. He is the only candidate who has accumulated over a million votes. He has received 1.4 times as many votes as the second place finisher in this category.

Romney = 1,183,979
Gingrich = 837,611
Santorum = 569,488
Paul = 337,894

Note: if you want to review the state-by-state results, 2012 Election Central has a convenient summary page.

2) Average percentage of the vote – Romney wins in this category. Taking the percentage of votes he earned in the nine contests that have been held so far and averaging that number, Romney has averaged 34% of the vote. This is 1.3 times better than the second place finisher in this category.

Romney = 34%
Santorum = 26%
Paul = 19%
Gingrich = 18%

Note: I boosted Gingrich’s numbers by only averaging the 8 contests he participated in. If I had counted his 0% Missouri finish, that would have dropped his average to 16%.

3) Average Place (i.e., first, second, third, …) – Romney wins in this category with an average place of 1.7, putting him comfortably ahead of the second place finisher in this category, who scored an average place of 2.4. The breakdown of this tally is telling: Romney had only one finish that was not a 1st or 2nd place finish, while Santorum had 5 finishes that were 3rd place or lower, Gingrich also had 5 that were 3rd place or lower, and Paul had 6.

Romney = 1.7
Santorum = 2.4
Paul = 3
Gingrich = 3

Note: I again boosted Gingrich’s numbers by only averaging the 8 contests he participated in. If I had assigned Gingrich a 4th place finish in Missouri, that would have dropped his score to 3.1.
4) Delegate count – Romney wins in this category also. You would have to combine every delegate from all three remaining contenders to tie with Romney’s total.
Romney = 123
Santorum = 72
Gingrich = 32
Paul = 19
My conclusion is that Romney can still safely be considered the Republican front-runner.
  • Gingrich has done well in two high-population states (South Carolina and Florida).
  • Santorum has done well in four states that involved relatively low numbers of voters (the most votes he received from a state that he won was 138,957 in Missouri) and relatively high percentages of Evangelical voters (all his victories came from states where Evangelicals make up more than 20% of the population). He has placed 3rd, 4th, or 5th in the states where Evangelicals make up less than 20% of the population. That may not bode well for Santorum in the evangelical-poor but delegate-rich states of California, New York, Illinois, and possibly even Santorum’s home state of Pennsylvania (the latest poll in Pennsylvania shows Santorum and Romney in a statistical deadheat). See the Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life for religious composition summaries by state.
  • Romney is the only candidate who has consistently scored 1st or 2nd place finishes almost entirely across the board. He has won all three contests in the states where Evangelicals make up less than 20% of the population, but he has also placed 1st or 2nd in 5 of the 6 states where Evangelicals make up more than 20% of the population.

With the most total votes, the highest average percentage of the votes cast, the best average place in the first 9 contests, and the highest delegate count, Romney is clearly the best-positioned to do well in the long haul.

#1: Gingrich Has Promised a Constitutional Showdown on His First Day in Office

Republicans would be well advised to avoid a candidate who has committed to order a Constitutional showdown on his first day in office.

During an appearance in South Carolina on January 18, Gingrich said:

The President interprets the Constitution as President…. If the court makes a fundamentally wrong decision, the President can, in fact, ignore the courts.

One may well ask how likely Gingrich would be to actually carry out such a radical idea. The only problem is that Gingrich also said:

I fully expect, as President, that there will be several occasions when we [Gingrich and the Supreme Court] will collide.

Gingrich actually promised to provoke his first Constitutional showdown on his first day in office. He said that he would order the “national security apparatus” to ignore the Supreme Court’s Boumediene decision, which ruled that Guantánamo Bay detainees have the right to challenge their detention in US court.

Gingrich’s plans for Constitutional brinkmanship seem to match too well with his views that were revealed during the House ethics investigation that I discussed in a previous blog entry. The ethics committee’s report cited a Gringich quote that provides worrisome insights into his thinking:

Mr. Gingrich told the New York Times that he acted very aggressively in regard to 501(c)(3) law: ‘Whoa,’ [Mr. Gingrich] said, when asked after class one recent Saturday if the course nears the edge of what the law allows. ‘Goes right up to the edge. What’s the beef? Doesn’t go over the edge, doesn’t break any law, isn’t wrong. It’s aggressive, it’s entrepreneurial, it’s risk taking.’

I find it frightening that a Republican presidential candidate would consider himself, as President, to be far enough above the law that he has promised to defy a Supreme Court ruling. Even more frightening is the idea that 40% of the Republican electorate in South Carolina voted for Gingrich three days after he promised to stage a Constitutional showdown on his first day in office. One can only hope that they weren’t aware of his views on Presidential supremacy.

Gingrich’s current views and past behavior make me think that Republicans would be far wiser to choose Romney, the candidate who seems much more likely to work for change within the scope of our Constitutional system.

#2: Republicans May be Better Off Avoiding the Candidate with an Ethics Albatross

According to a 1997 Washington Post article, Newt Gingrich was the second Speaker of the House to be charged with ethical violations. However, Gingrich became the first Speaker to be reprimanded by the House, because the previous Speaker charged with ethical violations resigned from Congress after an ethics investigation was launched against him based on a complaint filed by Gingrich.

The report produced by the House ethics committee was harsh in its assessment of Gingrich:

In looking at this conduct in light of all the facts and circumstances, the Subcommittee was faced with a disturbing choice. Either Mr. Gingrich did not seek legal advice because he was aware that it would not have permitted him to use a 501(c)(3) organization for his projects, or he was reckless in not taking care that, as a Member of Congress, he made sure that his conduct conformed with the law in an area where he had ample warning that his intended course of action was fraught with legal peril. The Subcommittee decided that regardless of the resolution of the … tax question, Mr. Gingrich’s conduct in this regard was improper, did not reflect creditably on the House, and was deserving of sanction.

The Subcommittee’s deliberation concerning the letters provided to the Committee centered on the question of whether Mr. Gingrich intentionally submitted inaccurate information…. 

The culmination of the evidence on this topic again left the Subcommittee with a disturbing choice. Either Mr. Gingrich intentionally made misrepresentations to the Committee, or he was again reckless in the way he provided information to the Committee concerning a very important matter….

As is noted above, the Subcommittee was faced with troubling choices in each of the areas covered by the Statement of Alleged Violation. Either Mr. Gingrich’s conduct in regard to the 501(c)(3) organizations and the letters he submitted to the Committee was intentional or it was reckless. Neither choice reflects creditably on the House. While the Subcommittee was not able to reach a comfortable conclusion on these issues, the fact that the choice was presented is a factor in determining the appropriate sanction. In addition, the violation does not represent only a single instance of reckless conduct. Rather, over a number of years and in a number of situations, Mr. Gingrich showed a disregard and lack of respect for the standards of conduct that applied to his activities. (“In the Matter of Representative Newt Gingrich: Report of the Select Committee on Ethics,” pp. 92-94)

It’s interesting to compare how bipartisan the Gingrich reprimand votes were compared to another Congressional proceeding that occurred the following year. 75% of the Republicans on the ethics committee voted to recommend that the House reprimand Gingrich. Of the Republicans in the full House who voted on the penalty against Gingrich, 88% voted to reprimand him and to charge him $300,000 to defray the costs of the ethics investigation. The following year, Gingrich helped lead the impeachment proceedings against Clinton, and those proceedings ended in a polarized partisan vote, with 100% of Senate Democrats eventually voting against the articles of impeachment. On the other hand, it is notable that most of Gingrich’s own party on both the ethics committee and in the full House felt it was appropriate to reprimand him.

According to a Washington Post article published the day after Gingrich was reprimanded,

House ethics committee members took pride in yesterday’s bipartisan resolution of the case. ‘We have proved to the American people that no matter how rough the process is, we can police ourselves, we do know right from wrong,’ said Rep. Porter J. Goss (R-Fla.), who headed the investigative subcommittee that charged Gingrich.

Another Congressman (Mark Sanford, R-SC) said that he would not have voted for Gingrich to be Speaker of the House had he known about the issues raised by the ethics committee’s report:

The gray got grayer when you read the report…. When I think of my three boys and what kind of example I want to set for them for leadership in this country, gray is not the example.

To Gingrich’s credit, he did admit to wrongdoing and accepted the penalty imposed on him:

I was overconfident, and in some way, naive. With deep sadness, I agree. I did not seek legal counsel when I should have in order to ensure clear compliance with all applicable laws, and that was wrong. Because I did not, I brought down on the people’s house a controversy which could weaken the faith people have in their government…. In my name and over my signature, inaccurate, incomplete and unreliable statements were given to the committee, but I did not intend to mislead the committee.

I accept responsibility for this, and I deeply regret it.

I did not seek personal gain, but my actions did not reflect creditably on the House of Representatives.

Gingrich has claimed that “one of the biggest advantages I have as a good conservative, with a clear record of conservatism; I think that I could in fact draw a sharp contrast with Obama.”  Looking at the policy positions of Gingrich and Romney, it’s not clear to me how Gingrich could draw a better contrast with Obama than Romney could. However, when it comes to Gingrich’s behavior, it’s quite likely that Democrats would succeed in  drawing a sharper contrast between Gingrich and Obama than they would be able to draw between Romney and Obama. That may, in fact, be one of Gingrich’s largest liabilities; namely, that he opens the door to the wrong kind of sharp contrast. Gingrich’s history may just provide too much easy cannon fodder for Obama’s campaign staff.