January 23, 2008

Eyes on the Primaries: Gov. Mitt Romney

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As Super Tuesday and the Presidential Election loom closer, former Gov. Mitt Romney’s (R-Mass.), winner of the Wyoming, Michigan and Nevada Republican primaries, will have to take a stronger stance on issues if he wants to clench the Republican presidential nomination.
According to the New York Times, Romney has contributed $17 million dollars of the $63 million he has already received for his campaign from his own personal fortune. He is also backed by such billionaires as eBay finance CEO Meg Whitman and Intel CEO Paul Otellini. Romney’s considerable personal worth was obtained largely through his tenure as CEO of the managing consultant firm Bain & Company and as founder of Bain Capital, a venture capital and investment company.
Romney’s business experience has been a large part of his campaign, with his supporters citing it as evidence of his ability to “run” a country in the same way he ran companies. On his official campaign website, more than half of his profile page outlines his various business ventures and accomplishments, particularly his overhaul of the 2002 Winter Olympics in Salt Lake City.
Despite his positive business track record, Romney has come under scrutiny for his tendency to retract and change his positions on leading issues, most notably his stance on abortion.
According to CNN, he currently “opposes abortion rights except in cases of rape, incest and to protect the life of the mother,” although he supported abortion rights when he was running for Senator in 1994.
This switch in positions has not gone unnoticed by some critics following the candidates.
“He contradicts himself on the abortion issue – he basically said it’s up to the states in terms of legalization, but he wants to make it a national amendment, which I think is stupid,” said Adit Iyer, grad.
Abortion is not the only controversial issue that Romney has contradicted himself; according to his CNN profile, he has publicly opposed same sex marriages and civil unions, but “supported a Vermont-style civil unions law for Massachusetts.”
In comparison to some of the other candidates on both the left and the right, these contradictions have led him to stand out in a way that could be construed negatively.
“When you’re looking at [the candidates], and Romney is an exception, all of them have taken a series of positions and stuck by them,” said Prof. Richard Bensel, government.
According to Bensel, Romney has not created the same sense of a strong identity and positioning as some of the other presidential candidates.
“Romney plays the audience and changes his position. He’s probably the most and the least interesting of the Republican candidates because of that,” Bensel said. “He doesn’t stand by his positions. He’s a classic politician, looking at the polls and bending whichever way the wind blows.”
On the topic of the war in Iraq, CNN states that Romney is currently in support of Bush’s tactics, which include supporting Bush’s veto of a troop withdrawal, and also Bush’s plan to send additional troops to Iraq.
This has not settled well with some students on campus.
“I think his position on the war is stupid – he wants to increase the number of battalions. He plans to ‘solve the Iraq problem’ as opposed to giving up and apologizing,” Iyer said.
In comparison to another leading Republican candidate, John McCain, Iyer was more impressed in general with McCain’s firmer stance on the issues.
“On the issue of the war on Iraq, McCain is more staunch, more militant,” Iyer said. “Romney also has the weakest healthcare plan, and that’s a big issue for me. His healthcare plan is very loose – he supported the healthcare plan in Massachusetts, but doesn’t have a plan for the rest of the country.”
Romney is well known for his fervent Mormon beliefs, but that does not necessarily mean he is not accepting of those who practice other faiths.
In his 2007 “speech on faith”, Romney said, “No one should become the spokesman for his faith. For if he becomes president, he will need the prayers of the people of all faiths.”
Along the same lines, Bensel criticized those who think Romney’s Mormonism will be an issue or cause for concern.
Bensel believes a large number of people assume that there will be problems with Romney “because he’s a Mormon. That’s not a real issue. It’s kind of like the issues on the Democratic side having an African American and a woman running: it’s not the main issue,” Bensel said.
“The real problem with Romney has nothing to do with that.”
Want to read about the other candidates? Click on the candidates name: Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.), former Gov. Mike Huckabee, former Gov. Mitt Romney, former Sen. John Edwards , Sen. Barack Obama (D-Ill.) or Sen. Hillary Clinton (D-N.Y).