This is part 3 in a series of back-and-forth commentary and question/answer sessions I've had with former Mitt Romney aide, Hunter Golden.
Phil Chroniger: "We all know who I'm voting for at the moment. However, you've pretty well kept your choice of candidate a secret, really. Let's say that today is the Massachusetts primary, and you're at the voting booth. Who are you voting for? Is who you're voting for based on your ideal candidate out of the group...or is it due to electability factor?"
Hunter Golden: "Right now.... probably leaning towards Huckabee. I think he's got a lot of things I like.
1.) Executive Experience-- It's not exactly an indicator of whether someone will perform well in office, but I think in today's trying times we really need someone who can run an administration responsibly. As a two term governor of Arkansas, the guy's got some quality experience running a light-purple state.
2.) How He lines Up with What's Important to Me-- This guys' resume in Education is pretty much unmatched. When Clinton left office, the Arkansas educational system was in shambles (who woulda thought..) and this guy's primarily responsible for a massive turnaround there. Second, he stays consistent socially, but really treats those issues as secondary to ones that are more important right now like National Security and ebbing government spending, which right now's utterly out of control.
3.) Can He Win-- Huckabee's a difficult match up for a lot of reasons for the Democrats. First, he can expose a lot of Clinton non sense from the pre-white house years. Second he's a southerner and will hold the base together to give him a solid place from which to work with. Money isn't a HUGE factor for him if he wins the nomination.. that will come. Right now it's hurting him, but over time it won't. Second of all, he's nearly impossible to attack. The Clintons are going to really struggle to dig much dirt up about him, which I think is Mitt's greatest strength, difference being that Huckabee doesn't come off looking like a car salesman. I think he's a far stronger candidate than most would think.
4.) Intangibles-- I dig the way they're presenting Mike right now. He's not mauling people in the debate and comes off like Thomspon should; a loveable, grandpa kinda guy. He's conservative, but doesn't allow that to define his candidacy like it has Romney or THompson's. It's a 'responsible conservatism' I really like and respect. Same with Richardson who gives a very similar aura as a guy that ain't gonna compromise his values, but isn't going to get sucked in by the nut roots of the part even though he might have a stance or two that might stray in that direction.
Mitt's running the best campaign right now. Of anyone. Hillary's running on her name alone and that's certainly not a bad thing, as 'Clinton' carries a lot of weight on the left hand side of things. Mitt though, is running as a conservative in a party that's desperately looking for one while keeping his campaign focused and targeted. Who gives a crap about Texas. If you win Iowa and New Hampshire it's almost always enough to carry the nomination. Either way, he's one of the last two standing.
What I DON'T like about Mitt is that he's far too insulated. I sensed that problem with Dubya early in the 2000 race and that's what made me flock to McCain. Why's it important? Because being an effective Governor or President is an ability to adjust to the political climate. Bush tried to make sure adjustments wouldn't ever have to be made and although he was wildly successful for five years or so, it ran out of gas and now he's as lame duck a President as i've seen yet.
I worry about Romney in that regard. He seems too tunnel vision for the job. Focus and resolve is good, but it can also lead to your undoing. The BEST and WORST quality about President Bush is his GENUINELY not caring about what people think about him or his decisions. He maintains his focus and his resolve, but when things hit a bump, they shouldn't turn the car over, and Bush, because he's been relentlessly unwavering on almost everything, it's hurt him. Adjusting your position doens't mean changing it. It can be a change in how you present it, a mix up of the cabinet for whatever, etc.
Sorry to stray for a brief moment but i'll express another frustration with the Bush White House and that's actually his relationship with Nancy Pelosi. The two, despite taking big digs at each other on Camera, have an incredibly fantastic relationship. He's maintanied an open door policy with her and the fact that he hasn't 'killed her with kindness' so to speak has been frustrating. Regan had a similar relationship with Tip O'Neill and would frequently turn entire poicy squabbles around by heading to the podium and saying 'hell, the guy has an open door policy. I respect his position, too. But, If he was sincere about fixing this problem, he'd be making more of an effort to negotiate with me'....
Anyways, I just don't see Mitt being able to do that. I dunno if you've met a lot of Romney folks Phil, but they're BRUTALY loyal. Mitt could kick a baby on camera and they'd rationally come up with a explaination of not only why he did it, but why it's so wonderful AND necessary. They're unbearable and totally stuck in an alternate universe. So again, if you don't like Bush, you'll loathe a Mitt Romney presidency.
I held the phone on Thompson. I knew the first two weeks were going to make or break things for him. If he had hit a hot streak, i'd have opened the wallet in a second, but he started rather meekly. He's been stuck in the polls and is now the Republican verision of Obama, a guy who says all the right things, but just isn't up to running a national campaign yet (if ever).
Rudy's going to be a melt down. Mark my words. He's starting to slip now even. McCain never even got out of the gate.
So that leaves me with Mike Huckabee, whose a guy who I like idealogically and like as a match up. I don't think he's a defacto GREAT candidate or anything, but of this lot (which sucks btw), he's the best bet I think. So i'm leaning towards someone for the first time."