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Was Mitt Romney really the GOP's best candidate?
Some Republicans are having doubts as Romney's campaign hits a rough patch, with a few wondering whether another candidate might have had a better shot
 
Back in September 2011 there were as many as nine politicians vying for the Republican presidential nomination. Was Mitt Romney really the strongest of the group?
Back in September 2011 there were as many as nine politicians vying for the Republican presidential nomination. Was Mitt Romney really the strongest of the group?
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All through the Republican primaries, Mitt Romney was considered the most electable candidate the GOP had to offer. Recently, however, the former Massachusetts governor's campaign has been rattled by infighting and gaffes. Romney has struggled over the last week to get back on track after being caught on tape disparaging the 47 percent of Americans who don't pay federal income taxes. Meanwhile, President Obama has surged in the swing states that are expected to decide the November election. Political odds-makers say Romney's path to victory is narrowing, and some GOP insiders are openly second-guessing the party's choice of a nominee. Could somebody else have offered the GOP a stronger shot?

Republicans had better options — but those people didn't run: Romney was "head and shoulders above candidates like Michele Bachmann and Herman Cain," says Doug Mataconis at Outside the Beltway. Former Utah Gov. Jon Huntsman might have been more electable, but primary voters weren't interested. And if Romney was the best the GOP had, it was because the rivals who "might have posed a challenge" to him — "Jeb Bush, Chris Christie, Mitch Daniels, and Marco Rubio come to mind" — didn't run.
"Was Mitt Romney the best candidate the GOP had this year?"

No. The GOP picked the best candidate: Romney just "needs a strong [debate] performance to cut into Obama's (narrow) lead," says Pete Spiliakos at First Things. There's reason to believe he can deliver one, too. After all, Romney "always got the job done" in the primaries — he "totally destroyed" Rick Perry, "beat down [Newt] Gingrich" in Florida, and "ran rings around" Rick Santorum. Obama is a tough rival with a weak record, and Romney has the best chance of anyone in the GOP crop to beat him.
"Romney in debate"

The GOP primaries damage even strong candidates: Romney is "robotic" and "severely out of touch," says Richard Cohen at The Washington Post, but the GOP's "real problem" is its "incredibly damaging" primary system. It forces everyone to pander to the Right so much "that it all but dooms the winner." That has actually scared off good candidates. In 1980, Ronald Reagan had to beat a future president and two future Senate leaders, but this year, Romney just had to outshine "a bunch of nobodies" who weren't "remotely qualified."
"The Republican brain drain"

Any Republican should be good enough: "Given the awful state of the economy," says Dennis Prager at National Review, the "unprecedented tensions" between us and our closest Mideast ally, Israel, and Obama's drive to build the welfare state, "a Republican candidate should not merely win," but win in a landslide. Romney can be that candidate. He just has to stop focusing on specifics, like jobs, and "run on the big issue" of whether we want to let the government and its debt take over our lives.
"It's not just the economy, stupid!"

Read more political coverage at The Week's 2012 Election Center.

 

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