Let the Games Begin

As my regular readers know (all three of you!), I have been a strong supporter of Mitt Romney since word came out in 2003 that he was likely to make a run for the presidency. In fact, I made the rather brazen prediction on November 4th, 2004 that Romney would follow Bush as the 44th president of the United States.

Today, Romney made it official. His exploratory committee is a fact and it will inevitably lead to the kind of serious and sustained effort it takes to win the nation's highest office. Up to today, Romney has punched all the right tickets, secured a good group of political insiders, and established ground forces in places like Iowa, New Hampshire and South Carolina. The campaign will now kick into higher gear. I'm getting a flood of requests for money as I type this post.

The Republican field has narrowed down to Romney, McCain and Giuliani. Rudy is the clear leader among the Republican faithful. His lead can be attributed to name recognition and his 9/11 leadership. But his views on abortion and gay marriage are problematic for a part of the socially conservative base that hasn't started paying attention yet. Yesterday's news that a Giuliani campaign plan was exposed is the likely the work of social conservatives who hope to strangle his campaign in its crib.

McCain is seen by the mainstream press and independents as the front runner (based on polling across the whole political spectrum), but I have my doubts about his ability to win enough primaries in the South to get the nomination. There is a wall in South Carolina that McCain needs to scale, the wall he failed to negotiate in 2000. If Romney can beat McCain in South Carolina, it will be all downhill from there.

Word on the Republican street for a couple of years now has been that Romney is Bush's man, too. I'm sure the president will not be foolish enough to weigh in until after the convention in Minneapolis but, behind the scenes, tacit support will be there. And don't forget Jeb Bush. His support in Florida is worth its weight in gold, and it will also be helpful in Texas.

Mitt has some other advantages. He has quasi-favorite son status in Michigan and New Hampshire - Michigan because of his father's legacy there, and New Hampshire because of his residence on Lake Winnipesaukee, and its proximity to Massachusetts. And it looks as if the Romney/Utah feud has now been resolved (Mitt's didn't make many friends cleaning up the 2002 Winter Olympics). As such, the Mormon vote nationwide should be helpful.

So, let the games begin. It will be an exciting ride for Mitt and his family. A Republican victory in the general election is no sure thing. In fact, it is going to be difficult. But the Republicans need a fresh face on the trail, someone who carries no baggage from congress or the previous administration. And of the three good men who have a shot, Mitt Romney is the best.

Now, open your wallets.