In doing so, I readily admit that Mitt Romney would not be my first choice. In my view, former Utah Governor Jon Huntsman is, by far, the superior candidate. It is telling that Huntsman was the only potential candidate that the Obama administration was seriously worried about (which is why they tried to take him out of the running early by appointing him ambassador to China). Huntsman's moderate policy stands appeal to a wide swath of voters. He's well-versed in foreign affairs and carries credibility on the international stage. And given current global trends, it wouldn't be the worst thing in the world to have a president who speaks Mandarin Chinese.
But for a variety of reasons (some his fault, most not) Huntsman has a near-zero chance of getting the nomination at this point. Thus, Mitt Romney is the next least-undesirable choice (I'm saying this as someone who likely will not vote for the Republican candidate next fall, whoever he/she happens to be). And at this point, every vote for Huntsman, especially in New Hampshire, is likely one vote less for Romney. Given the moderately serious threat that Gingrich poses, the moderate coalition of the GOP (in my view, Romney and Huntsman supporters, and a few Ron Paul supporters) needs to get together behind a single candidate with the best chance of winning (and more importantly, making sure that Newt Gingrich is NOT a mere 270 electoral votes away from the White House) -- and that's Mitt Romney.
Even though I likely won't vote for him in the general election (although that could always change), I readily admit that Mitt Romney would make a fair to decent president. I agree with the editorial board of the Des Moines Register about Romney being the best candidate to demonstrate "sobriety, wisdom, and judgment". In his heart of hearts, I don't think that Romney is an extremist and I am skeptical (although I could be wrong!) that he would be an extremist as president. Further, I agree with David Brooks that "Romney can be dull". However, I also agree with David Brooks that "that's a good thing":
Finally, Romney can be dull. Political activists like exciting candidates. But most people, who have lower expectations from politics and politicians, just want them to provide basic order. They want government to be orderly so they can be daring in other spheres of their lives. Romney is the most predictable of the candidates and would make for the most soporific of presidents. That’s a good thing. Government would function better if partisan passions were on a lower flame.
It’s exciting to have charismatic leaders. But often the best leaders in business, in government and in life are not glittering saviors. They are professionals you hire to get a job done. The strongest case for Romney is that he’s nobody’s idea of a savior.
My strongest reservation about endorsing Romney is that he is a clear and strong neoconservative in terms of his foreign policy views (see here for a brief overview of neoconservatism). Neoconservatism in the George W. Bush administration got us the Iraq War and drastically increased anti-Americanism throughout Europe and Asia and, I would argue, diminished America's ability to be a positive influence in the world. I am not anxious to have another president who would approach foreign affairs from a neoconservative perspective.
That being said, the only alternatives with preferable foreign policy views (Huntsman and Paul) are not viable (Huntsman in the primary and Paul in the general). Those with similar foreign policy views are also much less preferable than Romney. I've already shared my views on Newt Gingrich. Perry, Bachmann, and Santorum all have serious competency, world-view/ideology, or viability concerns (respectively).
So that leaves us with Mitt Romney. I encourage all my friends in Iowa to caucus for him on January 3rd, and my non-Iowa friends to support him in the various state primaries next spring.