Time to make up my mind about who I want for president and I’ve narrowed it down to two. Republican Congressman Duncan Hunter drove himself from Manchester to Conway while campaigning in New Hampshire last week. He was doing the best he could with his limited budget and staff. A few days later, former Republican governor Mitt Romney came to Conway with his driver. Two advance men were at The Conway Daily Sun (one of the papers running my column) when I arrived last Saturday morning, twenty minutes early for the interview by the Sun’s editorial board. It’s an example of what it’s like for Hunter as a back-of-the-pack candidate. Romney is among the leaders.
Hunter answers questions with a yes or a no, then explains his position. I interviewed him over the phone last July for the web site Family Security Matters. He knows what he thinks and I agree with him on nearly every issue. He’s is a conservative and always has been - no question about that. I also agree with Romney on nearly every issue, but on some issues important for a conservative like myself, he’s only recently come to the right. Abortion, illegal immigration and gay “marriage” are the biggest examples. That troubles me about Romney just as it does many conservatives when deciding who to support. Then I consider how I’ve moved right myself over the years. I’m an unwavering conservative now, but who am I to doubt Romney? Perhaps it’s an advantage to know how the other side thinks so as to be able to work with them when hammering out deals in congress? On the other hand, having a president whose conservative principles are bred in the bone the way Hunter’s are is comforting, especially after seeing what President George W. Bush has done with the growth of government and illegal immigration.
Hunter is a former soldier. He served two combat tours in Vietnam jumping out of helicopters. He’s served on the House Armed Services Committee for twenty-two years. When Republicans controlled the House, he was chairman. We’re at war and will continue to be for the foreseeable future and we need experience like his. Hunter’s son served three terms in Iraq as a Marine. There’s little question that Hunter would make an effective commander-in-chief. Romney’s military background? He doesn’t have any. That doesn’t disqualify him, but it’s a weakness if you’re going to lead a country in wartime. As governor of Massachusetts, he ordered the state police not to guard former Iranian president Mohammed Khatami, a supporter of Islamic terrorism, when Harvard foolishly invited him to speak in Cambridge. Good move, but that’s about the extent of Romney’s foreign policy experience.
Hunter has a determination about him that shows in his face and in his manner. He looks like a warrior. Romney looks like he was sent over by central casting. That can be an advantage, but it can also be off-putting. Hunter has little administrative experience except as a junior officer in the army. He’s a legislator. Romney, however, has had vast experience as a business executive, running the Winter Olympics in Salt Lake City, and as governor of Massachusetts. In all three capacities, he’s been extremely effective. This is a clear advantage for Romney because the president is, after all, the chief executive.
Both men speak well. Hunter is direct. Romney is smooth. Each has his strength and we’ve seen how important communication skills are over the past seven years by observing George W. Bush’s lack of them. The president of the United States leads the most powerful country in history and is a major world leader as well. It’s important for him to explain things to the American people and encourage them to follow his lead during troubled times. Watching President Bush trip over his words when he wasn’t reading from a script has been embarrassing at times. Both Hunter and Romney would be improvements, but again, Romney has an advantage here as well.
There are more candidates in this presidential election than I can remember in my lifetime and I’ve been voting for thirty-five years. It’s also been one of longest elections in our history and it’s still almost a year away. We’ve seen and heard commercials and debates by candidates for both parties, so there’s been ample opportunity for us to make up our minds about whose name to put a check next to. I’ve had the opportunity to personally speak to and ask questions of six - four Republicans and two Democrats. All are good at relating to people. I’m finally mature enough to realize that I’ll never find a perfect candidate on everything. Each is flawed in some way just as we all are.
Though Hunter is the most conservative candidate and a good, courageous man as well, would I be wasting my vote for someone who has never risen above the low single digits in opinion polls? Shouldn’t I vote for Romney and help him get by Huckabee, McCain, Giuliani and Thompson who are leading the pack? Maybe, but there’s only one poll that really matters - the one in the voting booth. If I don’t vote for the man I believe would make the best president, wouldn’t I be further corrupting the process? Each of us had to use his brain and his gut to determine whom to vote for. I have. Maybe I’m a sucker the underdog, but I’m voting for Duncan Hunter. I urge you to do the same.