KUHNER: Is Mitt the one?

If he’s the GOP nominee, conservatives must back him

Mitt Romney is on the verge of delivering a knockout blow. The former Massachusetts governor leads in the polls heading into the Iowa caucuses. If he wins, especially by a large margin, he almost certainly will capture the New Hampshire primary on Jan. 10. Mr. Romney will have all the momentum, the big donors and - most importantly - the air of inevitability going into South Carolina and Florida. He may then be unstoppable in becoming the Republican presidential nominee.

That begs the question: Should conservatives support him? Mr. Romney is not a man of the right. Rather, he is a pragmatic technocrat who champions efficiency and market-driven growth. He is primarily a businessman, a numbers cruncher with a fetish for data and “analytical models.” He represents the GOP’s green-eyeshade wing: Budgets need to be balanced, spending never should outstrip revenues. It’s not sexy; it’s not inspirational; and it’s not even truly conservative. A Romney presidency would not hack away at Social Security or Medicare. It would not substantially roll back big government, and it would not restore federalism and substantially devolve power to the states. In short, a Romney victory represents a triumph for the Republican establishment.

Yet Mr. Romney has one overriding virtue: He can defeat President Obama. In our television age, Mr. Romney has numerous strengths. He is very telegenic, he is attractive, and he looks presidential. Moreover, his moderate politics means he appeals to a vast spectrum of voters - independents, suburban women and disaffected Democrats. He can cobble together a majority electoral coalition.

Those who claim Mr. Obama can be trounced easily are living in a fantasy world. Despite his dismal performance and the sclerotic economy, the president has several strong assets. He has the power of incumbency. He has the mainstream media propping him up. Most important, he has bribed large segments of the electorate. Contrary to popular myth, liberalism has nothing to do with compassion. It is about expanding government in the service of power. Mr. Obama simply has been following the model established by President Franklin D. Roosevelt: Use massive public spending to buy votes. The nearly $1 trillion stimulus, Obamacare, the auto bailouts, nationalizing the student loan industry, record numbers of Americans on food stamps, the unprecedented extensions of unemployment insurance, Wall Street and housing bailouts, billions spent on the “green” economy and the record deficits - all have created potent political constituencies dependent upon government handouts. They will do almost anything to re-elect Mr. Obama; their very livelihoods are at stake.

This is why conservatives should not only rally behind Mr. Romney if he becomes the Republican nominee but support him enthusiastically. Mr. Obama is the most radical, destructive president in living memory. Defeating him is the most important issue for conservatives; everything else pales in comparison.

There is another reason to support a Romney candidacy: He will repeal Obamacare. Its costs are kicking in already. The benefits, however, don’t really start until 2014. Obamacare is the president’s signature legislation. It is a multitrillion-dollar entitlement that not only imposes government-run health care and rationing but threatens to break America economically. Its massive costs can only be paid through permanently high taxes. Its sole purpose is to fuse the middle class to a public health care system, making it dependent upon government handouts. It is central to his social-democratic agenda of transforming America into a European-style nanny state. Once the benefits - and the resulting dependency - begin, there will be no turning back. The 2012 election is the last chance to rescind it. After that, as with Social Security and Medicare, any attempts to reform it - never mind repeal it - will be denounced as “right-wing social engineering.”

Mr. Romney’s passage of universal health care in Massachusetts is well-known. It served as the basis for Obamacare - especially the individual mandate to purchase insurance. Mr. Romney is vulnerable to charges of hypocrisy from Democrats. Yet repeal is a seminal plank of his campaign platform. Should he win the White House, he could not - and would not - reverse himself. The result would be political self-destruction. Hence, Mr. Romney would block America’s dangerous slide toward socialism and economic ruin.

Mr. Romney is someone who specializes in resuscitating dying companies. He spent decades at Bain Capital doing precisely that. America is like Lehman Brothers - overleveraged, overextended and drowning in debt. Mr. Romney aims to cut out the fat and fire the dysfunctional, failed old management; he will unleash the animal spirits of the private economy. He can reverse our decline and turn around the giant bankrupt corporation that is America.

The 2012 election is about one central reality: We are going broke. If the current trajectory continues, America will be Greece in four years. The country will have to file for Chapter 11 bankruptcy. America will be crushed by its national debt, runaway deficits and huge entitlements. There will be no one to bail us out - not China, the European Union or the International Monetary Fund. We will be insolvent, racked by skyrocketing inflation and high unemployment, our social safety net shredded and riots in the streets. We will no longer be a prosperous republic; rather, we will look more like a disintegrating Third World nation. We are in the midst of a crisis. Ideological purity is a luxury we can no longer afford. If Mr. Romney wins the GOP nomination, I will back him. So should every conservative.

Jeffrey T. Kuhner is a columnist at The Washington Times and president of the Edmund Burke Institute.

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