Mitt Romney was not my first choice for President. Frankly, he didn't make my top three. I was initially enthusiastic about Tim Pawlenty. Later, I volunteered in Iowa and South Carolina for Gov. Perry. Lastly, I campaigned in Tennessee for Rick Santorum. Now it appears inevitable that Gov. Romney will be our nominee. (No offense to my Newt friends, but he's batting 2-31 out of states that have weighed in so far, and he's batting even worse if you throw in D.C., Puerto Rico and Guam.) So my goals now are to elect solid conservatives to the US Senate and House this fall and work to elect Mitt Romney President.
While I'm no political genius, I am something of a student of politics. I've volunteered on multiple GOP national presidential campaigns including campaigning for Bush in Florida in 2004, and I have a degree in political science and history. Here's some keys I think Gov. Romney needs to utilize in order to win this fall.
1) Romney must frame the debate by relentlessly going on offense against Barack Obama. Romney held nothing back in attacking his GOP opponents. He needs to follow the same guidelines in going after Obama. Romney would be wise to study Ronald Reagan's speech at Liberty State Park, NJ in 1980. Reagan opened his presidential campaign on Democratic turf, and he delivered a speech for the ages holding nothing back against Jimmy Carter. Romney's speech following his Illinois primary victory is precisely the kind of speech he needs to deliver day in and day out through November. I encourage you to watch the speech in its entirety. It is one of Romney's finest moments of the campaign.
Obama will attempt to make Romney a villain, so Romney must turn the tables and consistently pound Obama's disgraceful economic record (sky high unemployment, blocking energy development and the 100% increase in gas prices since Obama took office, drunken deficit spending, etc), shameless identity politics (war on women) and socialist rhetoric and policies (e.g. class warfare, Obamacare, etc). Let's face it: the GOP primary was primarily white noise to Democrats and Independents, so any prior Romney attacks on Obama have not really been heard by swing voters.
Romney will be outspent and outgunned financially by Obama, so Romney must introduce bold arguments and bold ideas (continue to embrace Paul Ryan's economic reform ideas and develop a few good ones—bring back drill baby drill, introduce a flat tax, etc) to steer the national debate to the right. All Romney has to do is talk about North Dakota. They're drilling their socks off up there, and unemployment is under 4%.
2) Deploy Ann Romney. She has the star power potential of Sarah Palin. Just unleash her. She has a compelling life story to tell—of overcoming cancer and fighting MS. It takes a woman of strength to raise 5 boys as successfully as she has. The American people will grow to love her. Ann Romney has the potential to be a better spokesman than Romney's VP nominee. Send Ann to swing states where women can sway the election. She will do nothing but help Mitt Romney. Just look how the Hilary Rosen attack backfired. Hilary Rosen, Obama loyalist and White House guest on 35 occasions over the last three years, pulled off a seemingly unimaginable task—uniting the right behind Mitt Romney. On the down side, Rosen's White House pass has likely been revoked through the election.
3) Select a solid VP nominee. Attention team Romney: take all that charming stuff you keep reading about Rob Portman in the WaPost and NY Times, and get it out of your heads. Portman would be a very bad VP nominee, although I think he'd potentially be a great Chief of Staff or Commerce Secretary. Portman is Mr. Establishment, and he is far from youthful. He's like an Ohio version of Mitt Romney. Portman would bring about as much enthusiasm to the ticket as a Joe Biden cameo at a Pittsburg St. Patty's Day parade. A Portman VP selection does not compute. Romney doesn't need to doubledown on country-club Republicans. He needs some conservative bona fides. At the same time, Romney doesn't need somebody who would overshadow him (goodbye Newt and Santorum from the veepstates). However, he solidifies his candidacy if he selects someone who passionately articulates conservatism and lives it. This winnows the field to a few excellent VP choices: Allen West (articulates conservatism fluently, is youthful, represents a must-win swing state, brings military experience to the ticket, generates enthusiasm among conservatives and potentially cuts into Obama's African American support), Marco Rubio (also a great conservative spokesman, has won a statewide election in a must-win swing state, is youthful and has the potential to help the GOP win the Hispanic vote), Paul Ryan (a policy genius, has a youthful and winsome personality, is eloquent in arguing conservatism, represents a swing state, has routinely taken on Obama) and Rick Perry (brings military experience to the ticket, has an outstanding record as governor, was firing on all cylinders at the end of his Presidential candidacy (unfortunately it was too late for him to make a comeback) following his recovery from back surgery. Perry also would help Romney shore up the conservative base and be a stark contrast to Obama. I think Gov. Bobby Jindal would be a formidable VP choice, but I'm uncertain he has the charisma of West, Rubio, Ryan or Perry. Rubio arguably offers Romney the most upside potential. He possesses some executive experience as Speaker of the Florida House, represents a crucial swing state and is a rising star in the GOP.
The bottom line for Romney is that the failed socialist policies of the Obama presidency have made 2012 a year ripe for a Republican resurgence. That's not to say Romney won't face some sizeable challenges: namely a hostile media bent on destroying him, a wary conservative base and a cash-rich Chicago political machine. Winning will require taking the gloves off and going full throttle after Obama. For Romney to win, he must frame the debate as a recall election on Obama—and he needs to deploy his best weapons from his arsenal: his wife and his veep nominee.