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My Turn
Other Views from Those in the Know
Robert W. McKnight
former Florida state senator and representative
GOP Failed to Examine Romney Record

Gov. Mitt Romney may still win the presidential election on Nov. 6.  If he does, credit to him and his campaign. 

But if he doesn’t, I would argue that it is because his own party did not properly vet him.  Yes, I understand he made it through the primaries winning the necessary votes for the nomination.  And yes, I further understand the more conservative wing of the party, led by former Sen. Rick Santorum, former Speaker Newt Gingrich, and even  Herman Cain, aggressively grilled him. 

But the fact remains that this is a candidate for the highest office in the land, subject to the greatest scrutiny ever, and the most advanced technology to do the search.  From day one, even going back to his losing campaign in 2008, Romney had these three personal and public records working against him:

1. Romney Care.  Incredibly, he not only supported a clone of Obamacare, but heralded it at the time as his greatest achievement in government.

2. Abortion.  Although he is still trying to dance around it, Romney supported abortion rights when he was governor of Massachusetts, period.  To be clear, he probably could not have won the state election at that time without taking that position.

3. Income Taxes.  Romney made the ‘big bucks’ before getting elected, but he has continued to pay as low income taxes as possible all his life.  That is not a crime, but paying half the rate paid by most taxpayers just amplifies the notion that ‘he is not one of us.’

Sure, the 47 percent comment, binder-on-women-gate, and the elevator in his house for his cars kind of doomed him as an elitist before ever getting into issue one. 

Romney is a smart man.  He is an excellent speaker and has a wonderful smile.  Most Americans will give a person a pass on transgressions. 

But, when you look at the magnitude of the three issues above, and you know that he is going to have to explain his flip flop on all three -- in explicit and understandable detail -- you have to be skeptical that it can even be done.  I don’t believe he has nor can he.

In all fairness, it probably never could have been done by anyone, and the Republican Party leadership should have talked him out of running.  But, my guess is that they wanted the moderate voice of the party to be heard, as evidence that the party is tolerant and inclusive. 

The party leadership was probably confident that he would never win the GOP nomination, in part because of the three positions above, and the growth of the arch-conservative Tea Party movement within the party.  This may be a case where you should be careful what you want…you might just get it.                    

Robert W. McKnight is a former Florida state senator and representative, who represented South Dade County and the Florida Keys from 1974-1982.  He has written two books on Florida politics and is a political commentator on ABC TV News/WTXL 27 HD.  He has a political blog, www.flpoliticalcommentary.com.  He can be reached at [email protected].

Published Sunday, October 21, 2012