Darren Spinck: “Romney supports limited government, personal economic freedom, and debt reduction”

By Max Mykhaylenko

Mr. Spinck, does Rick Santorum’s withdrawal mean a piece of cake campaign leg for Mitt Romney all the way down to Tampa in late August?

Even before Rick Santorum suspended his campaign last week, there was nothing stopping Governor Romney’s path to the Republican nomination for president. Romney’s campaign was better organized and funded than any other candidate’s and the delegate math was overwhelmingly in his favor following the Super Tuesday vote. Remaining GOP candidates Newt Gingrich and Ron Paul pose absolutely no threat to Romney for the remainder of the nomination battle and will certainly work cooperatively with the Romney campaign moving forward, to ensure a unified GOP convention. It is in the best interest of every former candidate to support Romney to not only help defeat Obama in November, but secure their future as leading voices of the Republican Party as well.

The presumptive nominee can now spend the time leading up to the convention raising funds for the general election, properly vetting his selection for running mate, and campaigning in the approximately dozen swing states that will decide the November election. Most importantly, Romney can use the next four months as an opportunity to develop a narrative contrasting his proposed policies from Obama’s and to coalesce support amongst conservatives who may have been leery of his candidacy during the drawn-out nomination battle with Santorum and Gingrich.

What does it infer to ‘be Republican’ today, in other words, who are ‘better Republicans’ — centrist moderates (in this case what’s their significant difference from ‘moderate’ Democrats?) social conservatives, or libertarians?

Republicans favor limited government, lower taxes, and a strong defense. Social and libertarian issues, while important to the Republican Party platform, tend to take a backseat to these core GOP issues. Social issues such as fighting for the rights of the unborn and protecting the sanctity of marriage tend to be focal points during the primary battle; however, certain social issues affecting women, particularly the role of the federal government to provide birth control, will likely be raised during the general election. It is difficult to define who is a “better Republican”, but an ideal Republican candidate is one who is committed to: reducing debt without raising taxes, reducing the size and scope of the federal government, protecting civil liberties, supporting states’ rights, and balancing the role of a strong U.S. military while limiting international intervention when not in the national interest of the United States.

Some argue, that Dr Paul’s popularity in young conservative ranks and wider is a web-based cult. Do you agree?

Congressman Paul’s supporters include a diverse voting bloc ranging from anti-interventionists to Tea Party supporters focused on debt reduction to those supporting drug legalization. His base of support is particularly strong amongst young voters who tire of the endless cycle of muscular military interventionism, a growing welfare state, and government intrusion. Governor Romney will certainly need to address some of the key issues of importance to Paul supporters including less international interventionism, particularly when such actions are not in the national interest of the United States, and a reduction of the size of the U.S. federal government. It is difficult to understand why Paul’s strong support did not translate into more success during his two presidential campaign runs. Not winning a single primary or caucus could be an indication that espousing anything but American exceptionalism as a GOP candidate is tantamount to political suicide. Nevertheless, Congressman Paul and his son, Senator Rand Paul, will likely play significant roles at the GOP convention and their unwavering support of limited government will be a central theme throughout the general election.

Obama’s policies hardly can be called radical (or, maybe you’ve got a different opinion?), that’s why it is natural to ask what’s really new about Romney’s agenda except for party colors, if anything?

Obama’s policies are quite radical when viewed as a whole. He believes that government is the solution to almost any problem and supports a class welfare system that punishes success. Romney strongly supports economic liberty and believes that lower taxes on individuals, corporations, and capital gains will lead to the production of more jobs. Obama has doubts about the free enterprise system and apparently sees no danger in expanding the size and reach of the federal government while racking up five trillion dollars in debt since he stepped foot in the White House. Governor Romney, on the other hand, is determined to reduce the size of government, is dedicated to repealing Obamacare and the federal government’s hand in the health care system, and supports entitlement reform to help prevent the bankruptcy of the United States. Romney unapologetically supports domestic energy production, while the Obama administration has limited such policies to the detriment of U.S. consumers who pay more at the gas pump. Obama’s policies have failed to secure the U.S. borders, while Romney promises to enforce existing immigration laws. The distinct differences between the two candidates boil down to party philosophy at the end of the day – Romney supports limited government, personal economic freedom, and debt reduction by eliminating wasteful federal government programs while Obama has increased the size and scope of the federal government and believes that debt reduction and government programs should be funded with increases in personal and corporate taxes.

Romney’s still behind Obama in the polls, although the campaign has not really started yet for the incumbent — despite the fact, that all of national attention has been drawn to opposition primaries for months. The above provides Newt Gingrich with reasons to label Romney as the weakest GOP front-runner since 1920s. How true is this?

Romney is far from a weak candidate. All but one recent national polls show him with a slight lead against Obama, or at least within the statistical margin of error. For example, the latest national polls conducted since April 9 — the Gallup Daily Tracking, Rasmussen Tracking and Fox News polls— show Romney with leads between 2-3 percent over Obama, while the most recent CBS News/NY Times poll shows Romney running even with Obama. Even with Romney performing well in these polls, it is important to not take national polling data too seriously at this point in the election cycle, especially since the United States does not elect the winner of the presidential ballot based on the results of the popular vote. What is more important is to judge Romney’s performance in key battleground states such as Florida, Virginia, North Carolina, Ohio, Colorado, and Iowa. Should Romney pick up victories in these states, in addition to the states that McCain won in 2008, Mitt Romney will be the next president of the United States. It is certainly no easy task for Romney, but polling has shown he is competitive in all of these battleground states, in addition to New Hampshire and Indiana, a traditionally GOP leaning state that McCain lost in 2008.

It’s always important to know, who else is on board — could you speculate on potential figures of the Romney Administration? Do you observe any continuity with previous Republican administrations?

If Mitt Romney picks a running mate based on the need to secure a key battleground state, it would be surprising if he does not choose either former Florida Governor Jeb Bush, U.S. Senator Marco Rubio from Florida or Rob Portman from Ohio. Either one of them would help Romney win a state needed for his electoral victory. Other potential vice presidential candidates include New Jersey Governor Chris Christie, former Minnesota Governor Tim Pawlenty, Indiana Governor Mitch Daniels, New Mexico Governor Susana Martinez, and New Hampshire Senator Kelly Ayotte. Most likely, the Romney campaign is weighing not only the running mate’s ability to help win a key battleground state, but his or her ability to help Romney run more competitively amongst a key voting bloc such as women or Hispanics. There has not been as much speculation on potential cabinet members for a Romney administration as there has been on his possible running mates. However, there is likely to be some continuity from the Bush Administration in the Departments of Defense and State. Some names being circulated for Pentagon head include David Petraeus, current Director of the Central Intelligence Agency and architect of the Iraq Surge under President Bush or even Senator John McCain. Names floated as possible Secretary of State have ranged from former Bush-era UN Ambassador John Bolton to Bush Administration officials former Deputy Secretary of State Robert Zoellick and former Undersecretary of State Nicholas Burns.

Was that a new edition of Reagan’s ‘we start bombing in 5 minutes’ sound-check joke, when Romney defined Russia as US ‘number one adversary’? Was it a slip of a tongue? Or, maybe, a ‘special operation’ led by his opponents in the media?

Since President Obama first stepped foot into the White House, the GOP has painted a narrative of Obama as a weak, apologetic leader on the foreign stage. In many cases, this narrative has been justified and was reinforced by the recent snafu at the Seoul Nuclear Security Summit. Politically, Romney and many GOP operatives saw an opportunity to pounce on Obama’s mistake, and rightfully did so. The point of contention that Romney seems to have with the Obama-Medvedev discussion appears less focused on the direction that the Obama administration is taking US-Russia relations, but rather the troubling notion that a U.S. President was politicizing national security matters. Once you read past the red meat of Romney’s critique following Obama’s all-too-honest admission to Medvedev, its more clear that Romney opposes Obama’s casually explaining his foreign policy decision as politically driven, rather than making decisions in the best interest of the United States.

Romney surrounds himself with knowledgeable foreign policy advisers including former Senators Norm Coleman and Jim Talent as well as former Representative Vin Weber. It is clear that should Romney win in November, he will not behave as a shrinking violet in his dealings with Moscow. But, it is preposterous to believe that any “reset of the reset” would resemble Cold War-era US-Russia relations. A Romney White House will unquestionably rely on a strong relationship with Moscow to counterbalance China, prevent Tehran from developing a nuclear weapon, and end the continuing fiasco in Afghanistan. Romney’s bravado is fine during the campaign. Politics is a rough sport and feelings can get hurt. But, Romney’s pragmatism and instinct as a problem solver will likely trump idealism during his administration’s future dealings with Moscow.

Can there happen any change in US Eastern Europe policies under Romney Administration? Currently it is a sluggish, semi-neutral policy, of sorts, attempting to share as much responsibility as possible, with European allies and even Russia…With concern to Ukraine, Washington has limited its efforts, say, to nuclear issues…

US-Ukraine relations seem to be a complete standstill recently. Other than some tepid warnings from the U.S. over perceived instances of selective prosecutions in Ukraine and stating hopes that Ukraine’s October parliamentary elections are “free, fair, and transparent”, the Obama administration has been rather laissez faire in its dealings with Kiev. Should there be any electoral irregularities in October, or should there not be a resolution to prosecutions in Ukraine that the U.S. may view as politically motivated, it is likely that the Romney White House will not have a similar hands-off approach in its relations with the Yanukovych Administration. Romney’s foreign policy advisers include many Bush Administration officials from during the 2004 orange revolution. Therefore, it is critical that the Yanukovych administration Administration not only demonstrate to the West that the upcoming elections are fair, but also ensure that Ukraine is perceived as a free market that has pragmatic economic and political-military relations with its neighbor Russia but Europe and the United States as well.

Republican Administrations are usually more pragmatic and balance-of-power oriented in their foreign policy — but that is not an axiom anymore. What do you think, is Ukraine going to listen to ‘instructions on democracy’ from Mitt Romney, if he is elected?

Ukraine’s nascent democracy has grown with little interference from the Obama administration. Recent comments from President Obama, however, urging Ukraine to hold a free and fair parliamentary election are a harbinger of things to come under either a second Obama term or from a Romney Administration. Western-funded NGOs in Ukraine have not been as active during the Yanukovych presidency. However, the West will watch the upcoming parliamentary elections quite closely. If Ukraine’s opposition groups control the media narrative, it is highly likely that either President Romney’s or Obama’s State Department will respond with a program to nurture opposition leaders and weaken the Yanukovych Administration and the Party of Regions prior to the 2015 presidential election in Ukraine. It is therefore imperative that the leadership of the Party of Regions understands how the Western press will cover the upcoming parliamentary elections and work closely with these journalists to present a fair, unbiased narrative of the efforts being undertaken to ensure the election is free and transparent.

Since cold war, there existed an established community of ‘experts on Ukraine’ in DC. Somehow it always happened that their major job was to provide arguments for deterrence of Russia, rather than promoting US-Ukraine cooperation. Could that change under Romney’s presidency — whose opinion he will rely on in foreign policy planning?

Governor Romney is a pragmatist and a problem solver. He will likely not view foreign policy from the rose-colored glasses of idealism. However, the Ukrainian diaspora in Washington is quite powerful and remnants of the foreign policy team in place during Ukraine’s orange revolution are advising Romney’s campaign. First and foremost, the pro-democracy Ukraine experts in Washington will likely be critical of the upcoming parliamentary election. As mentioned earlier, it is vital that the Party of Regions leadership not allow the narrative on the parliamentary election to be hijacked by Ukraine’s opposition. Second, Ukraine’s government must be prepared to work closely with a Romney White House and explain its foreign policy and economic positions. Kiev’s cooperation with Moscow and Brussels/Washington on economic and foreign policy matters need not be mutually exclusive of one another and this must be communicated. Third, any perception by the West that Ukraine’s investment climate is not free must be dispelled by Ukraine’s government as well. The key to strong Kiev-Washington relations will be communications. Without an aggressive public relations and advocacy program promoting Kiev’s strategic goals, the Yanukovych Administration and Party of Regions could have a difficult time with either a Romney or Obama White House. With Ukraine’s parliamentary elections just six months away, any opportunity to positively influence the West is quickly slipping away.

Thank you.




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