Thursday, March 8, 2012

Mitt Romney Will Be a Fairly Strong Candidate If . . .

I had my doubts about Romney. He was far from my first choice. I felt that the Republican Party needed to nominate a strong candidate who could sell a powerful dose of economic conservatism to the middle ground in American politics.

We don't have that guy this time. Those guys either dropped out or never ran.

Newt Gingrich flubbed when he attacked a Republican for being a capitalist.

Rick Santorum forgot what the election is about.

Ron Paul looks good 90% of the time. The other 10% keeps me from wanting him to be president.

And that leaves Mitt Romney.

Our remaining four represent the different strains of thought in the party. Newt appeals to the dreamer in us all. At his best, he is appeallingly Churchillian. He is the gamble that the Republican voters are obviously not inclined to make. Ron Paul hearkens back to the heydays of the Taft family, William Howard and Senator Robert. Old school Republicanism that appeals to the youngest conservatives. Rick Santorum electrifies the shrinking base of die hard social conservatives.

And Romney appeals to few, but he is eminently acceptable.

So why will he be a strong candidate?

Mitt Romney reminds me of Shelley Moore Capito in some ways, although Representative Capito is a much better communicator with a much better rapport and understanding of average people. The trait that they share in common is pragmatism. They listen to their constituents and do what they can to satisfy their concerns. Voters direct them, not the other way around. Some deride that as not sufficiently ideologically pure, but it is certainly a grounded approach that fits a democratic society with so many viewpoints.

Capito and Romney are the anti-Obama model. They thrive on their connection with the average non-political voter. Neither sell themselves as they only answer to the question and you get the feeling that they are willing to give any reasonable constituent a fair listen.

Outside of Ann Coulter, few of the hardcore conservative pundits like Romney. Do Republicans and Democrats honestly think that is a problem for Romney? Much as I like Rush Limbaugh and others of his ilk, it helps Romney in the general election to not have their 100% support. Independents and moderate Democrats who have come to mistrust and dislike Obama will be more likely to support a candidate who is not the favorite son of the Right.

Some Democrats speculate that Santorum's support in the South will hurt Romney in the general election. Are people that insane to think that Santorum supporters will miss a chance to vote against Obama in November?

Should Romney win the nomination, an increasingly academic phrase, the election is his to lose. Moderation, attacks on the President made in good humor instead of anger, and an understandable plan to return to prosperity and reduce debt will give Mitt Romney a solid victory.

Just don't get sidetracked, understand that some humorous statements about wealth translate poorly to print, and stay focused. Don't sell yourself as the answer, emphasize teamwork with other experienced people including the other former candidates. That contrasts you with The Won. Most of all, exude optimism in yourself and, most of all, Americans.

Only Romney could beat Romney once he wins the nomination.

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

The Power of Social Media in Politics: Eye on Keyser

Politics and social media were made for each other, if only politicians could figure out how to use it.

Mitt Romney may be one of the worst examples, at least until recently. His Facebook page had almost zero level of interaction. Imagine sitting in a room with a dozen people, periodically shouting at them, and then putting in earplugs and going to sleep.

Other elected officials seem to have a better grasp. Delegate Gary Howell (R-Mineral) produces a live feed on Facebook of every action in the West Virginia House of Delegates. He updates constituents on votes taken, including his own vote and a brief explanation of it. Most importantly, Howell interacts with constituents. Even octogenarian Republican congressman Roscoe Bartlett from the western panhandle of Maryland maintains a Facebook page that responds to questions and comments.

In Keyser, concerned residents formed a group on Facebook called "Eye on Keyser." The purpose of the group seemed to be to discuss issues in city government. Participants swelled quickly, from hundreds to now over 1,500. It's not for the faint of heart. Discussion gets about as rough and tumble as can be imagined, with accusations and amateur background checks tossed about.

However, Eye on Keyser was able to move beyond a debate society and truly start to benefit the community. It organized a crime watch patrol in some key neighborhoods. The most active members have certainly rattled the town establishment, just based on quotes in the paper alone.

One way that they could be more effective is by crowdsourcing. Some members have obtained documents and records that they believe could contain inconsistencies. They should scan them online or provide a link to the sources. That way, they take advantage of the energy and expertise of 1,500 people, some of whom might have skills that could be useful.

Social media allows for debate, but also collaboration on a scale almost unimaginable. This is a positive development for democracy and civil society, even though the process might not always be pretty or harmonious.

Monday, March 5, 2012

Charleston Gambling: the Wrong War At the Wrong Place At the Wrong Time

Disagreeing with my conservative brethren publicly does not fill me with happy thoughts, especially when it comes to a major party position, but sometimes it must be done.

I cannot fathom why the state Republican Party has selected this time and place to mount a major assault on table gaming at the Mardi Gras casino in Kanawha County.

A much more eloquent pundit than I, Don Surber, has emphasized repeatedly that this election in the Year of Our Lord 2012 must be about the economy. We must target jobs. We must target inflation. We must target the Democratic Party as a whole with its unwillingness to address either one of these issues with a real plan that does not collapse the economy in 2027.

In the Mountain State, we must focus on creating a plan for more aggressive taxation reduction and deregulation. The business and residents that we can steal from "tax and regulate until it dies" Maryland alone can pay for the costs. The state Republican Party needs to articulate a tangible and concrete vision on the economy, then hammer it home.

Republicans also must establish alliances with young independents. Give these people credit, they came out of a school system built to teach milquetoast socialism with a hardened belief in liberty. They support Ron Paul and are suspicious of government regulation of personal choices. They fear Obama, but do not trust the Grand Old Party, either. Most of them are socially conservative on some important issues, such as abortion, but libertarian on strict personal choice matters.

We need these people on our side, not on the sidelines.

That makes the fight against table games at the Mardi Gras casino somewhat baffling. Perhaps it did not live up to inflated expectations that it helped to set. Taking on its privilege to do business on these points may be the correct action.

The problem is that this should not have been undertaken by the state Republican Party. State party leaders need to concentrate on an economic plan that creates job growth. Average voters will wonder why the party promises job growth while trying to shut off a business. Young libertarian-minded individuals will wonder why the party talks about liberty, but goes on a crusade over gambling.

If the party succeeds in Kanawha County, this might rattle voters in Jefferson County and other areas that have casino gambling. We need these critical areas if we have any shot at winning statewide races this fall.

The West Virginia Conservative Foundation, which has apparently not uttered a peep since last November, should take the lead role in these kinds of actions. It can advance whatever for of conservative agenda it wishes while the West Virginia Republican Party remains free to focus on the task at hand, winning in 2012.