I’m undecided and conflicted in the 2012 presidential race. As a purely political matter, I think that former Missouri Senator Jim Talent is absolutely right: Romney would be a significantly more formidable Republican presidential nominee than anyone else now running.
However, as an iconoclastic conservative, and as a contrarian, I must confess to being a big political admirer of Newt Gingrich. Newt’s willingness — and, indeed, eagerness — to do political battle appeals to me. And his willingness to think big and to challenge the conventional wisdom also is praiseworthy in my judgment.
In fact, given the magnitude and intractability of our problems, Newt’s willingness to think outside of the proverbial box is essential. And this helps to explain, I think, his continued appeal to Republican primary voters.
What’s more puzzling is why Romney and his team seem not to grasp this. Why have they not risen to the challenge, with a more bold and audacious campaign? I mean, it’s not as if Romney can’t challenge Newt on Newt’s own terms.
Newt, of course, loves to talk about how we need to “fundamentally change” Washington, and he’s right about that. We do. But as GOP political consultant Alex Castellanos pointed out this morning on Meet the Press:
The best thing about Mitt Romney is not that he’s been a cautious man. The truth about his success is he’s been a transformational figure.
He transformed the Olympics; he transformed, you know, Bain Capital. Built companies. Transformational change in Massachusetts.
That’s the Mitt Romney I know. And this campaign, I think, has diminished him, [Romney], by making him smaller than his great gifts really reveal.
I think that’s right, and it helps to explain why Romney has been unable to surpass 25 percent of the vote in the polls: GOP primary voters suspect that he lacks sufficient depth, vision and courage to tackle the immense challenges that lie ahead.
That may not an unfair rap against Romney; however, the burden is on him to show otherwise. And his time to do so is running out.