Thursday, January 26, 2012

Mitt Romney’s Chances: A View From China

Romney: The Right Choice Is Better
Than an Early Choice

19 January 2012

Translated By Michelle Deeter      Edited by Gillian Palmer

China - Sina - Original Article (Chinese)
When former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney dropped out of the U.S. presidential race in 2008, it was both lucky and wise. He dropped out in spring, before he could know that Lehman Brothers would go bankrupt that September. If he had won the Republican primary that year, during the elections, his connections with Wall Street would have made him lose badly.
Four years ago, at approximately the same time, I wrote another article about Romney. At the time Romney had just announced his plans to drop out of the Republican primaries for the 2008 election. As one of the frontrunners for the Republican candidacy, Romney’s decision to drop out surprised many. At that time, I predicted that Romney’s exit was to prepare for the 2012 election; the mood in 2008 was such that any candidate linked with the Republican Party was going to lose by a wide margin. That included a candidate like Romney, who was willing to take moderate or Democratic positions. After a major defeat, it would have been difficult to stage a comeback. Thus, pulling out of the race early and gathering strength was a wise decision.
Not surprisingly, Romney is on stage for the primaries again, four years later. This time he looks like he wants to go all the way.
If he can win the Republican primary and enter the election race against Obama, Romney has a distinct chance of winning. In 2008, so many Americans were disappointed with the Republicans that a few states that usually were Republican strongholds switched and supported the Democratic Party, including New Hampshire and North Dakota. Swing states overwhelmingly voted for the Democrats, including Florida and North Carolina. At the time, Americans had many complaints with the Republican Party: The war in Iraq was never ending; the war on terror was gloomy; and the Lehman Brothers' bankruptcy in September 2008 precipitated a financial crisis. This dealt a fatal blow to the Republicans’ election prospects. When we consider these factors, Romney’s decision to drop out was lucky and wise. He dropped out in spring, before anyone could predict that Lehman Brothers would go bankrupt that September. If he had won the Republican primary that year, during the elections, his connections with Wall Street would have made him lose badly.
But times have changed. Now, in 2012, people have other things on their minds. Americans, who were once dancing in the streets celebrating Obama’s election, have found that the honeymoon is over and they are no longer interested in his “Change” campaign. They have started to grumble. Change has happened. Bin Laden is dead and the U.S. has pulled out of Iraq. However, there is no peace in Iraq and Iran has become a new foreign policy issue. What’s worse, the economy has not picked up much in four years, the government is facing massive debt and the U.S.’ allies in Europe are constantly fighting. Economic recovery is a weak sapling that is unlikely to survive, while economic disaster hangs over the United States like the sword of Damocles. Looking back at the health care reforms the Democrats pushed so hard to pass, many people now feel that the decision was a poor one. Even though there are many long-term benefits, the benefits will only come after waiting patiently, while relevant taxes are going to increase very soon. The news of increased taxes seems like an overwhelming burden to the middle class, which is already heavily burdened. The middle class will be more likely to support the Republicans and their small government policies.
Therefore, I think Americans will find Romney very appealing. He got his degree at a prestigious school and worked at a famous consultancy. When compared to the traditional Republican candidate, some cowboy from a small town in the South, Romney’s background will resonate with moderate voters. Plus, voters who are typically wary of Republican positions on social issues will take comfort in his background. As a Republican, Romney is more conservative than Obama on issues such as increasing taxes. Romney might not continue the health care reforms Obama put in place. This will all give him extra support in the presidential election.
The biggest hurdle for Romney is the Republican primary. The New York Times recently reported that Romney’s latest actions make it seem like he is already thinking beyond the primaries, which means that he thinks his nomination is certain. I think Romney should not act like he has already won. The same thing that makes Romney successful could make him fail. Romney’s background will make it easier for him to earn the favor of moderate voters and some Democrats; at the same time, it will cause some Southern Republicans to mistrust him. Even though in terms of the presidential election, Romney’s victory is much more likely than any of the other candidates in the Republican primary race, that doesn’t mean that Republican voters are going to let Romney take the stage.
Recently, Jon Huntsman pulled out of the Republican primaries and supported Romney’s candidacy, which is good news for the latter candidate. The two candidates have similar backgrounds, which could split votes. However, there is still one major weakness that Romney has to overcome in both the primaries and the presidential election: the fact that he is a rich person. This might sound laughable. All of the Founding Fathers were rich slave owners, and even today, there are many examples of rich politicians: The Bush family owns a huge ranch in Texas, Clinton and Obama were professionals with high incomes, not to mention the wealth of the Kennedys. The problem for Romney is that he accumulated his wealth while working at Bain Capital. This is a major sore point for a public frustrated with Wall Street businessmen. Bain Capital is a private equity fund whose employees pay low income taxes; for this reason, it stands in eye of the storm of a crusade against capitalism. This problem may not become the Achilles’ heel of Romney’s candidacy, but he had better be prepared to take some criticism from the protesters of the Occupy Wall Street movement.