Barring a major shift in public opinion, John McCain will win the Republican nomination for president. This is probably good for the party: he's a principled man who stands for things worth standing for. He has the best chance to win in November, especially against the slimy Clinton machine. Nevertheless, I intend to vote for Mitt Romney on February 5th.
There are two levels on which my vote for Romney can be explained: why I think he would make a better president, and why I would vote for someone less likely to win in November.
The latter argument is simpler. Politics should not be about the party, it should be about the country. If everyone expresses his honest opinion, and McCain wins, I'm fine with that. If, in November, everyone expresses his honest opinion and Hillary wins, I'll be disappointed, but I won't hate my country. And when I'm given the choice to express my opinion, I'll do so as honestly as I can: of those running seriously for president, Mitt Romney would make the best president. I owe it to my fellow citizens to vote my conscience.
I'm proud of the American electorate for ignoring a lot of the media hype this year. Voters have not jumped on bandwagons (for Obama), voted for the guy they saw most on TV (Giuliani, Romney), voted for a candidate because she was "inevitable", or withdrawn their support because a campaign looked unlikely (Huckabee, McCain). The result is a loud, raucous process with lots of choices and lots of ideas.
Mitt Romney, as I stated above, is the best person for the job. He acquitted himself admirably as governor of Massachusetts and he takes a can-do approach to governing. These qualities made me an early supporter of Romney, and his awful, consultant-driven campaign has not convinced me otherwise.
What stood out about Romney when he was governor was his ability to solve government problems. Facing a Democratic majority, he did not play partisan politics (until he began his presidential run), and he did not adhere to the Republican party line. He also led as a one-term governor: he appeared to look for the best solutions to problems, rather than judging each issue by its potential political impact.
He worked with Democrats to create individual-mandate universal health care in Massachusetts. Prices for individual plans quickly dropped, and the state has worked to facilitate comparison shopping. The Massachusetts plan may not be the best one for the country, but it's a good experiment. In a few years, we'll have much better idea how much it costs and how well it works. For now, its principal virtue is fairness: it treats all employers equally, and addresses the emergency-room freeloader problem. Romney was able to sell the program to conservatives by getting away from partisan cliches and pointing out that we already have universal health care - in emergency rooms - and all he was doing was trying to allocate it more cheaply and more fairly.
In sum, my support of Romney comes not from any particular issue, but from his attitude toward governing. His consulting business earlier in life was based on solving the problems of client companies - looking for specialized solutions to a host of different industries. He brought the same attitude to Massachusetts: rather than trot out the tired tropes of zero-sum politics and zero-sum budgeting, he found ways to make government more efficient and more accountable.
If we are to have post-partisan politics, it won't take the form of Obama's inclusive liberalism. Nor will it be represented by McCain's renegade approach - he makes as many friends as enemies. If possible, it will arrive with the realization that government can work efficiently and fairly.
We can increase the effectiveness of social welfare programs by designing them with less moral hazard (remember the 1990's welfare reforms?). We can increase tax revenues without raising taxes, by making the code simpler and fairer. We can stimulate economic growth without spending more by re-routing pork money to legitimate uses. We can raise real income by cutting farm subsidies and protectionist policies. We can improve educational results without raising costs by introducing competition among public schools (a la Europe). We can solve the problem of illegal immigration by bringing more legal immigrants from all over the world, people who want to work hard and invest their labor in America.
I believe Mitt Romney is the candidate most likely to govern with an attitude of efficiency, instead of playing politics at every turn. His campaign, which stinks of political consultancy, suggests otherwise, but I believe that his attitude toward governing will overcome the electioneers if we give him the chance to be our president. Therefore, I will vote for Mitt Romney on February 5th.