The signs have been more than manifest for more than a year: Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney is running for president.
Rudy Giuliani, arguably, will never be conservative enough on social issues for primary-voting Republicans. John McCain, by virtue of his upcoming commencement address at Jerry Falwell’s Liberty University, has formally relinquished his maverick cache. Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist has been on a year-long, self-imploding bender of cheap political opportunism – from Terri Schiavo to immigration. Condi Rice could out-demographic Hillary Clinton or Colin Powell – but she has that Iraqi albatross.
Romney, 59, is very much in the hunt.
He’s run an Olympics and a venture capital firm before taking over as governor of “Taxachusetts.” He has both business and law degrees from Harvard. He was valedictorian of his undergraduate class at Brigham Young University. He looks good; speaks well; exhibits a sense of humor. He has well-scrubbed, bright kids and a wife who is more Laura than Hillary or Teresa.
*As chairman – and previously vice chairman – of the Republican Governors Association, Romney has been out and about working for GOP candidates and maxing out on his national forum. Just last week he honored the request of Michigan Congressman Pete Hoekstra to speak on behalf of that state’s Republican gubernatorial candidate, Dick DeVos. It’s one of many markers he can call in for 2008.
*He’s increasingly disinclined to compromise on gay marriage. And increasingly inclined to talk about it. Last summer he told MSNBC’s Chris Mathews: “Marriage is not ‘an evolving paradigm.’ It is deeply rooted in the history, culture and tradition of civil society. It predates our Constitution and our nation by millennia. The institute of marriage was not created by government, and it should not be redefined by government.”
A lot of people agree, and they’re not all fundamentalist Republicans.
*He looked compassionately conservative when Massachusetts took in Katrina evacuees last August.
*He has taken on welfare overhaul in his state. And when your state is Massachusetts, that is noteworthy. It was a winning issue for Bill Clinton in 1992.
*His recent State of the Commonwealth speech was filled with bullet points that will make good hustings material. To wit:
-He can balance a budget and cut a tax.
-Massachusetts was ahead of the curve with its “Welcome Home Bill” that extended new benefits to returning soldiers.
-Massachusetts has “the most highly educated workforce in the country.” Its fourth and eight graders rank first in the country in English and Math skills. Romney is even pushing for mandatory parental preparation courses for those parents whose children are not succeeding.
-Massachusetts is now poised to provide private, market-based health insurance to all uninsured citizens.
*The health insurance issue – regardless of devil-in-the-details critics — and the subsequent Op-Ed piece he penned for the Wall Street Journal have upped his profile at a time when many other wannabes are mired in Washington’s political dreck.
*And speaking of the recently passed health-insurance bill, it was the reason why Romney was invited on “Hardball” last Tuesday. Host Chris Mathews, who can be combative, usually doesn’t fawn over his guests — but he did over Romney. “Congratulations, Governor,” gushed Mathews. “That sounds great. Sounds like something the country needs.” Sean Hannity couldn’t have treated Katherine Harris in a more ingratiating manner. Mathews may cringe, but we’ll see that exchange again.
*Romney’s web site speaks volumes about his likely appeal. For sale are the requisite “Mitt Romney For President ’08” mugs, T-shirts, bumper stickers, magnets, mouse pads, greeting cards, golf shirts, baseball jerseys, tote bags and toddler and pet T-shirts. And, of course, those family-values trucker hats.
Oh, and there’s also a “classic thong” ($12.99) for sale as well.
*Did we say he’s got the look?