The Iowa caucuses are around the corner. In this week's Scripps Howard column, Ben and I try to weigh which candidate would be best for America. My take:
Asking a liberal which Republican they favor in 2012 is like choosing one's favorite flavor of arsenic: You have options, but none will go down very well. Nobody in the field seems likely to attract many Democratic votes in November.Ben weighs in for Rick Perry. Which, honestly, I find too disappointing for words.
As an American, though, I want to see the GOP put its best and most-qualified candidate forward to challenge President Barack Obama. And that candidate is former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney.
Rep. Ron Paul of Texas might be appealing on civil liberties, but he also appeals too much to racists and conspiracy-mongers. Former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum and Minnesota Rep. Michele Bachmann are so retrograde on social issues they don't deserve consideration. Texas Gov. Rick Perry isn't bright, and former House Speaker Newt Gingrich is Newt Gingrich. Former Utah Gov. Jon Huntsman is Romney without the electoral support. So that leaves us with Romney.
Understand: Liberals aren't -- and shouldn't be -- happy with the way that Romney has distorted Obama's record on the issues. The former Massachusetts governor has suggested the president has been on an "apology tour," asking forgiveness for the country's sins. Romney has shifted right on issues like gay civil liberties and abortion rights, in a transparent act of pandering to the GOP base. As a politician, there's not much to like.
But the presidency isn't merely politics. It's governance. Romney probably wouldn't govern the country in a manner that liberals like, but his record suggests that -- unlike the Tea Party Movement activists who comprise much of the Republican base -- Romney actually believes that government can occasionally solve problems. More broadly, his own history suggests that he is a problem solver.
That's how he passed Massachusetts' health care law -- once a model for conservatives, until Obama emulated it. And it's an approach likely to produce better results for the American people than all the "government is the problem" bumper stickers the rest of the GOP field can supply. Romney, then, is the least-bad choice.