On tonight’s program, columnist-to-the-world Mark Steyn analyzed the GOP race for the presidential nomination and declared Mitt Romney least burdened among the top tier of candidates:
HH: Thirty seconds, Mark Steyn. Rudy Giuliani had his plans leaked, Mitt Romney declared. Is there anyone else in the top tier besides those two?
MS: Well, there’s Newt Gingrich, who everybody says, and I think they’re right, has been making terrific speeches on terror. He gave a terrific appearance in New Hampshire, in which he called, he said that those six imams in Minneapolis causing the trouble on the plane should actually have been arrested. He’s absolutely terrific, but he carries way too much personal baggage. And all four of these candidates, I think, are defective in some ways. Mitt Romney I like, but in many ways, because I think his kind of Mormonism is the least problematic baggage of the major candidates.
Steyn also added his analysis of the Vanity Fair piece on John McCain, and we see eye to eye on its impact on the senator’s diminishing political heft.
Outgoing Colorado Governor Bill Owens then appeared and bluntly announced that he is for Romney, the sort of early declaration I hadn’t expected. A transcript of that will be up later.
My book on Romney will appear in two months and will address the positives and the negatives of a Romney candidacy, including the “Mormon problem” to which Mark Steyn referred. The governor has sat down with me for extended periods, as his his close family, business and political associates and a variety of commentators and analysts from across the political spectrum.
There’s a long way to go until Iowa, but as 2007 opens, the momentum remains where it was throughout 2006, with Mitt Romney. Mayor Giuliani could indeed make it a race, and Senator McCain might still turn it around with some “straight talk” with conservatives, not Chris Matthews.
Let me repeat: This isn’t an endorsement, just an analysis. Announcements like Owens’ matter and takes like Steyn’s do as well.
UPDATE: Here is the excerpt from the Owens’ transcript:
HH: Now Governor Owens, have you been talking with the leading Republican candidates? Have you got a favorite in the race?
BO: I have been talking to the leading Republican candidates, and I like Mitt Romney. I think when your earlier caller was asking about somebody who has real substance, and I realize that some of us who are conservatives, there have been some questions. But I think that Mitt Romney’s a conservative, and I think he can win. But I also like John McCain. I’m not being political here. I’m not one of these anti-McCain people. I want a winner, and somebody that’s going to be with me 80% of the time, both of them would be, and I’m for Romney, but not against McCain.
HH: Now I saw…you know, you worked with Romney at the Governor’s Association, both the Republican and the national. Explain to people what you see in his candidacy?
BO: Well, I think he’s one of the brightest people I’ve ever seen in public office. He’s a businessman, he’s a manager. He understands markets, he understands the private sector. He is a conservative, he wants to cut taxes. You know, he’s a Republican who was elected in Massachusetts, which has about 12% of its voters who are Republican. He was able to win that election, and we saw what he did at the Olympics. His foreign policy experience isn’t substantial, but I know he’s a conservative on foreign policy in the sense of understanding the role of America in the world.
UPDATE: The Amazing Kreskin, Peeps, thinks I should go ahead and endorse Mitt Romney. Peeps is welcome to do so, but there’s a lot of turf to be covered between now and 2008, and I’d prefer to continue to evaluate the candidates as they make their cases throughout the year. To be favorably impressed with Romney (and with Giuliana, though with more reservations than regarding Romney) does not mean any analyst has to give up the right to watch and remark. To put it in terms that Peeps will understand, I think Romney enters the season with the number 1 ranking, and Rudy at #2, Senator Brownback at 3, Governor Thompson at #4, Congressman Hunter at #5, and Senator McCain at #6. But not even a single game has been played yet. Once we see a few contests –the money primary, the first few debates, more profiles with more revealing statements, then it will make sense to rerank. For the time being, I think my preseason standings are much more accurate thatn the MSMs.