Governor Romney is an incredibly gifted man –intelligent in the way very few people are, charismatic, and blessed with an amiable openness and determined, strong character.
He is a good man, and his very successful run towards the presidency is a testament to his talents. His magnificent family represents an achievement in the private sphere that he shares with Ann Romney and which was reflected in his accomplishments in business, at the Olympics and in Massachusetts.
Because he is a very good man, a great conservative and an extraordinary patriot he is standing aside to allow Senator McCain’s national campaign to commence. There were excellent reasons for Romney to stay in the hunt, including the opportunity to score some impressive victories in places like Ohio, which might have served Romney well in any future campaign.
Romney’s decision to “stand aside,” and especially the reasons he gave just now in his CPAC speech underscore the qualities I found so compelling in him, and confirm for me my decision to support him made many months ago. Had the conservative movement more quickly recognized these qualities, the coming together around Romney that has occurred in the last few weeks would have assured him the nomination and, I think, the White House. But it didn’t, and now the task is to assure that Senator McCain succeeds President Bush for the very reasons Mitt Romney outlined today.
The campaign ahead is first and foremost about victory in the war. As Romney argued today, Senators Clinton and Obama are committed to retreat, and Senator McCain to victory in that war. That’s all the reason any conservative should need to fully support Senator McCain now that his nomination is assured.
When I wrote my book about Mitt Romney, I by necessity had to learn a great deal about his parents George and Lenore Romney. Those of us who couldn’t vote in 1968 don’t recall the bruising battles of 1967 and 1968, and how George Romney’s presidential campaign failed to ignite.
Forty years later Mitt Romney’s campaign did take off, came very close to success but fell short, and unlike George Romney’s campaign then, Mitt Romney’s campaign of the last 14 months is really an opening act for a role in the leadership fo the GOP that will continue for years to come, and Senator McCain will almost certainly look for help from the Romneyroots as the GOP will this year and in the years ahead.
George Romney did not have to battle the sort of open religious bigotry that erupted again and again on the internet and often even in the comments on this blog and in major publications. The leading GOP figures, including Senator McCain, have quite rightly denounced such unAmerican and repulsive expressions, but they have plagued American politics in a way that still stuns and shames its elites and its defenders here and abroad. Mitt Romney’s refusal to either abandon or distance himself from his faith or to succumb to anger in response to these attacks has added to the esteem with which he is held by those who value religious freedom and hope to see its spread in the world, especially in those regions now dominated by our fanatical enemies. Romney’s address at the Bush Library in late 2007 was a sad necessity, but its execution a bright moment for religious liberty, and a moment that defined Mitt Romney as very much a leader of people who value the spirit of the Constitution as it was intended to be understood and practiced by the Framers.
There is one great similarity between the Romneys’ campaign then and today though, which is far more significant than the differences including the sad ones: Those who know, endorsed, contributed to and worked on behalf of George and Mitt Romney are extraordinarily proud to have done so, as I am, and will remain.
UPDATE: John Mark Reynolds was another early Romney supporter, and has a fine coda to the Romney campaign.