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Even before former Pennsylvania senator Rick Santorum announced he was ending his campaign, Mitt Romney was clearly the best choice for Republican voters in Connecticut's April 24 presidential primary contest. With Mr. Santorum's withdrawal, Mr. Romney becomes arguably the only rational option.
While Mr. Santorum's name remains on the ballot, the only two men who ostensibly still challenge Mr. Romney for the nomination are former Speaker Newt Gingrich and Texas Rep. Ron Paul. Unless intent on casting a protest vote, we can't imagine any lucid Connecticut Republican choosing anyone but Mr. Romney.
Speaker Gingrich left Washington in disgrace and scandal. He rails against Washington while enriching himself as a lobbyist and has run a convoluted campaign for president. Rep. Paul, meanwhile, is on the fringe of American politics, calling for dissolution of the Federal Reserve, an isolationist foreign policy and a libertarian form of domestic non-governance that would destroy most regulatory controls, environmental protections and leave needy Americans fending for themselves.
In contrast, Mr. Romney appears to be the ultimate pragmatist, sometimes to a troubling extent. His ideology has shifted based on the occasion. In winning an election as governor of liberal-leaning Massachusetts, Mr. Romney sold himself as a moderate. He was a supporter of environmental protections, urged conservation in the face of rising energy prices, pledged to defend the reproductive choices of women and most remarkably played a lead role in the creation of that state's near-universal health insurance coverage program. It became the model for the federal Affordable Care Act.
In seeking the Republican nomination, Mr. Romney has shifted hard right. He belittles the administration's attempts to promote energy conservation. He pledges to repeal the health care law. He now staunchly opposes abortion rights. He proposes further tax cuts in the face of runaway deficit spending.
These vacillations make it difficult to know what a Romney administration would look like. But we suspect at Mr. Romney's core, if one can find it, is a fiscal conservative who believes government is too big and over regulates. Yet, based on his record in Massachusetts, we suspect a president Romney would also be politically expedient, willing to make deals that address real problems, rather than stick to an ideological agenda that aggravates them.
But who can know for sure?
Unquestionably, Mr. Romney will be the intellectual equal to President Obama in the debates to come.
Born into wealth and politics - his father George W. Romney was governor of Michigan - Romney has multiplied his riches many times over, most notably as a venture capitalist leading Bain Capital through numerous company purchases and re-sales.
In 2002 he took on the job of leading the Salt Lake City Olympic Games Organizing Committee, where he was credited with reducing its bloated budget and boosting its fundraising. He parlayed that success into his winning run for governor of Massachusetts, the state where he had lost a Senate race to Ted Kennedy in 1994. Mr. Romney served one term as governor.
Mr. Romney keeps repeating that his experience as a businessman and Olympic organizer have prepared him to be the fix-it man for America's economic problems and its soaring spending. Beyond that he has been thin on the specifics, his campaign based largely on superficial, over-produced stagecraft and conservative-pleasing talking points.
Right now his solution to the fact 35 million Americans have no access to health insurance coverage is to repeal the Affordable Care Act and let the states deal with the matter. His vision for reducing the deficit and reinvigorating the economy is repackaged trickle down theory. We'd like to think the coming general election will force Mr. Romney to sharpen his policy perspective.
Unfortunately, given the vast unregulated cash that will flow into the election thanks to the terrible Citizens United decision, the country may be about to witness the world's first billion-dollar-plus mud fight, rather than a substantive debate about the country's future.
But among those Republicans left standing, Mr. Romney offers the best chance to surprise. Having, as a top aide said, the chance to shake up the Etch-a-Sketch after the primary race, perhaps Mr. Romney will present a more practical, moderate vision that will appeal to the great political middle.
To find out, The Day endorses Mitt Romney in the Connecticut Republican presidential primary.