National Review, perhaps the premier conservative journal in the U.S., has been hard on Mike Huckabee's fiscal liberalism the last couple of weeks, and has now decided to endorse Mitt Romney. They make an excellent case as to why Romney is the most viable conservative in the field. It's hard to disagree with any of this:
Rudolph Giuliani did extraordinary work as mayor of New York and was inspirational on 9/11. But he and Mike Huckabee would pull apart the [conservative] coalition from opposite ends: Giuliani alienating the social conservatives, and Huckabee the economic (and foreign-policy) conservatives. A Republican party that abandoned either limited government or moral standards would be much diminished in the service it could give the country.
Two other major candidates would be able to keep the coalition together, but have drawbacks of their own. John McCain is not as conservative as Romney. He sponsored and still champions a campaign-finance law that impinged on fundamental rights of political speech; he voted against the Bush tax cuts; he supported this year's amnesty bill, although he now says he understands the need to control the border before doing anything else.
Fred Thompson is as conservative as Romney, and has distinguished himself with serious proposals on Social Security, immigration, and defense. But Thompson has never run any large enterprise - and he has not run his campaign well, either. Conservatives were excited this spring to hear that he might enter the race, but have been disappointed by the reality. He has been fading in crucial early states. He has not yet passed the threshold test of establishing for voters that he truly wants to be president.
Romney is an intelligent, articulate, and accomplished former businessman and governor. At a time when voters yearn for competence and have soured on Washington because too often the Bush administration has not demonstrated it, Romney offers proven executive skill. He has demonstrated it in everything he has done in his professional life, and his tightly organized, disciplined campaign is no exception. He himself has shown impressive focus and energy.
It is true that he has less foreign-policy experience than Thompson and (especially) McCain, but he has more executive experience than both. Since almost all of the candidates have the same foreign-policy principles, what matters most is which candidate has the skills to execute that vision.
Read the rest at the link. It will be interesting to see whether socially and fiscally conservative evangelicals will vote for Romney in significant numbers or whether his Mormonism will prove too great an impediment for them to surmount.
I have been impressed with Huckabee and have felt somewhat reassured by his clarifications of his views on taxes and immigration, but I don't like the way he has sought to distance himself from the President. It seems too opportunistic, especially since Huck is the presidential candidate whose political convictions seem most like those of George Bush. I've also been impressed with Romney and agree with NR that he seems to be the most viable of those in the race who are both socially and fiscally conservative.
Fortunately, there's still much time to decide between these two men. Unfortunately, mostly for the reasons NR gives in its endorsement of Romney, I can't see supporting any of the other Republican candidates in the primary field. Nevertheless, every one of them is sturdier presidential timber than either Hillary Clinton, Barack Obama or John Edwards.RLC