British Prime Minister Winston Churchill once said that “Americans always do the right thing, but only after considering every option.” That observation is as true today as it was 60 years ago, especially in the Republican primary.
As the acknowledged frontrunner for the GOP nomination, Mitt Romney has endured the slings and arrows of commentators, political pundits and rivals. And despite his perceived weaknesses, he remains the most credible candidate to oppose President Obama in November.
Every candidate runs the gauntlet of being vetted by the national media and opposition researchers, yet somehow Romney has survived. Every other candidate has learned the hard way that national exposure means someone will examine every nook and cranny until your imperfections are found.
First, it was Michelle Bachman and her ability to rewrite history as we know it. Then Gov. Tim Pawlenty of Minnesota, who thought plain vanilla was the flavor of the year. Gov. Rick Perry of Texas seems to have been born with his foot in his mouth. And how can we forget businessman Herman Cain, who tried to redefine sexual harassment over and over. None could withstand the scrutiny that comes with being a presidential candidate. It really makes you wonder why politicians think they can paper over past indiscretions.
This brings us to the challengers left standing: Newt, Ron and Rick. Former Speaker Gingrich is undoubtedly the smartest of them all, and if you don’t believe it, he will tell you so. But give credit where credit is due: he’s articulate, has some great ideas and as a debater, the equal of Obama. Then again, sometimes he’s too articulate, as when he proffered in the Florida primary that America should build a manned outpost on the Moon. How about if we first get Americans back flying into space?
Texas Congressman Ron Paul is way out there, too. His brand is so foreign that he will remain a fringe candidate for all but a small (but vocal) slice of the far, far right. He can afford to march to his own drummer because he has Internet contributors who want to be left alone – entirely.
Former Sen. Rick Santorum interestingly has become the main challenger to Romney because he has successfully motivated the social conservatives. Mind you, they are a powerful force in the party, but issues important to their hearts don’t reflect those of the vast majority of Americans. Not even close. Somehow the conservative mantra that government should stay out of people’s lives stops exactly where right to life begins.
Americans want perfection and tend to idolize our leaders. Until the other foot drops and we learn that our leaders are just like us – imperfect. They make mistakes. They say things that make us think, “What were they thinking?” They do things that bring themselves shame and embarrassment. And we wonder why Americans become more cynical every day? We have to admit that politicians have the same foibles we have, they just have a better ability to rationalize their strange and sometimes provocative behavior.
Unfortunately, we will be bombarded with hundreds of television commercials, direct mail pieces, campaign signs and slogans because a small group of Americans can’t seem to make up their minds like the rest of us.
Truth be told, Democrats almost always vote for Democrats and Republicans vote for Republicans. But we must endure the media onslaught because the 20 percent of people who are Independents can’t seem to make up their mind. So the rest of us suffer the collateral damage.
Churchill was right. We consider every option. In the end, I hope we make the right choice.
Barney Bishop III, former head of Associated Industries of Florida, is the founder of Barney Bishop Consulting. You can contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org