Milton Friedman in a nutshell elegantly explains why I believe that Mitt Romney is going to end up pleasantly surprising Conservatives if he's elected President. Unlike Jonah Goldberg, I don't believe he'll be a Conservative out of gratitude, i.e. because he'll "owe" us - it will be because he'll have no choice. Keeping the GOP's conservative rank-and-file happy would not be just be a matter of political profit for a President Romney, it will be a matter of political survival.
Like I've written before, when I look at Romney's record, I add in 800 vetoes (700+ overturned) and factor in an 85% Democratic State Legislature and a 100% Democratic Governor's Council (which signs off on judicial nominations). I also count eight overturned line item vetoes in the Massachusetts Health Care Insurance Reform Law (AKA RomneyCare), multiple attempts to cut taxes and the fact that he came in facing a $3 billion deficit and left office with a nearly $600 million surplus.
I believe Romney would be a strong and able President and he would be fiscally better than George W. Bush and most importantly stratospherically better than Barack Obama. I believe he will be pro-life and pro-gun in word and deed throughout his Presidency and that he would nominate conservative judges and push them through the Senate.
I believe all this because I believe that a President Mitt Romney would seek a second term in 2016. He's too ambitious not to, and if there's anything no one can doubt, it's the breadth and depth of Mitt Romney's ambition. And he certainly would not want to be a one-term President. Which is where we'll own him, lock, stock and barrel.
Jonah Goldberg's Case for Romney has as a subtitle; "A president who owes you is better than one who owns you." My case is somewhat different; "A President you own is better than one who owes you."
Let me spell it out; 2016 will see a whole bunch of people finishing up their sixth years as Governors in their states - people with names like Susana Martinez, Brian Sandoval, Nikki Haley and Scott Walker(!). A man named Chris Christie would actually be rounding up their seventh year in office while another guy named Bobby Jindal would be just one year out of the Governor's office in Baton Rouge. There's also a guy named Bob McDonnell who would be three years termed out of office in his home state of Virginia, perhaps even serving in the Senate. And speaking of the Senate, there are one or two former Governors who are young enough to try their luck if a President Romney is stupid enough to provide them with an opening, not to mention a rising star named Marco Rubio and old veterans with names like John Thune.
In other words, unlike 2008 and 2012, in 2016 Conservatives are going to have lots and lots of ... options.
And you'd best believe that a President Romney and his staff are going to be well aware of those options and what would happen if he fails to walk the line - and the need for him to do so would be even more acute given how little he's trusted by Conservatives in the first place. No Republican White House would want a repeat of 1992 - and with so many viable alternatives, and a significantly more organized conservative base, it's not so much that a President Romney would fear not being able to win the General Election in November 2016, it's that he might just become the very first sitting President to experience the humiliation of failing to win his own Party's nomination in the Primaries.
That's why I will vote for Mitt Romney in my state's upcoming primary - not only do I believe that he's the most electable in a General Election of the three candidates left, I believe he'll govern as a conservative because I believe he's much more conservative than he's given credit for.
And because we'll have him by the cojones.