ACU Chairman Calls on Romney’s Rivals to Exit

Monday, 02 Apr 2012 10:02 AM

By Ronald Kessler

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Ronald Kessler reporting from Washington, D.C. Mitt Romney’s rivals must end their presidential campaigns if Republicans are to retake the White House, Al Cardenas, chairman of the American Conservative Union, tells Newsmax.

Cardenas, who has endorsed Romney, says that if Rick Santorum and Newt Gingrich continue their campaigns into the GOP convention in late August, Republicans will not have time to raise money and organize to beat President Obama.

alcardenas.jpg
Al Cardenas addresses the 39th CPAC on Feb. 9 in Washington, D.C.
(Getty Images)
“I’m calling on supporters of the other candidates and their peer group whom they listen to, to say to them, ‘I respect you, I care for you, I don’t regret having fought a good fight, but I’m moving on, and I hope you consider doing the same,’” Cardenas says. “That’s the message to my friends who are still in the camps of the other candidates.”

With one million members, the American Conservative Union is the preeminent organization representing the full spectrum of conservative thought. It runs the annual Conservative Political Action Conference, which dominates the conservative political agenda, and publishes an annual “Rating of Congress,” the gold standard for assessing members’ ideology.

When he was 12, Cardenas and his family fled Fidel Castro’s Cuba with only the clothes on their back. He became a prominent lawyer in Miami and a successful investor. He essentially rebuilt the Republican Party in Florida, becoming its chairman and helping Jeb Bush win election as governor. He was a mentor to Sen. Marco Rubio, who was a young lawyer in Cardenas’ Miami law firm.

“The level of discourse in the campaign has begun to appeal to our lower instincts instead of our higher instincts,” Cardenas says. “Candidates are concentrating more on each other’s superficial faults than talking about our vision for tomorrow or taking on the president. And that wear and tear is having a detrimental effect on the general election process.”

What tipped the scales for Cardenas and made him issue a call for the remaining candidates to drop out was that “both Speaker Gingrich and Sen. Santorum have publicly stated that their campaign strategy is no longer winning the nomination outright but preventing Mitt Romney from getting the nod and fighting it out at the convention,” Cardenas says. “That’s just not a workable formula. There’s no way we can compete with the Barack Obama machine given an eight-week time period. You can’t raise resources.”

To be effective, “You’ve got to spend money on day one, and you can’t start day one being the day after the convention and organize all 50 states, or at least swing states,” Cardenas says. “We just would not be competitive.”

So the question becomes, “Are we willing to give up the White House for the sake of letting the contest run through the convention? And the answer to me, clearly, is no,” Cardenas says.

Cardenas says he has always felt that Romney is a conservative who is the most competent presidential candidate and would have the best chance of defeating President Obama.

“It’s not that difficult to be a successful conservative governor of Oklahoma,” Cardenas says. “It’s far more difficult to be a conservative governor of Massachusetts. Mitt Romney clearly ran the executive branch of government in Massachusetts as far to the right as one possibly could.”

Cardenas cites the fact that Romney vetoed more than 800 bills that he felt conflicted with fiscal and social conservative principles. He balanced the budget and left a surplus.

Romney’s healthcare plan for Massachusetts was developed by the conservative Heritage Foundation. At the time, Gingrich and other conservative leaders endorsed the idea. The Massachusetts legislature, where 85 percent of the members were Democrats, tacked on provisions that made the legislation more costly, Cardenas says.

“Romney has clearly said that the federal mandate at the heart of the Obama healthcare bill is unacceptable,” Cardenas says. “He’s clearly said that he would work with the Congress to repeal it on day one of his presidency. And he clearly has said he would give day-one waivers to all the states to abandon it. I’m comfortable with that answer, and I’m comfortable with the fact that he would govern as a conservative.”

As for the claim that Romney is a flip-flopper, “If you agree with that claim, then in essence you’re closing the door to everyone who has transitioned in their public views,” Cardenas says. “As conservatives, we’ve always had a penchant for embracing those who found their way into our ranks. We did that with Ronald Reagan, who proved to be every bit as trustworthy as we had hoped.”

Especially on some social issues, Romney’s thinking has evolved, Cardenas says.

“He’s been preaching the conservative message now for a long time, and I take him at his word that he’s had this conversion on a few critical issues,” Cardenas says. “I know that he’s always governed as conservatively as he could, given the circumstances. I’m comfortable with his evolution, and I’m comfortable with the honesty and integrity of that evolution.”

Cardenas says Romney’s character is flawless.

“He has a reputation that is beyond reproach in the business world, which is as cutthroat a world as there is at his level,” Cardenas says. “In terms of his family life, he’s been a loyal husband and loving father for four decades, and he’s led an admirable personal life, not only with his family but with his faith, in terms of how much effort and resources he’s put to support his faith, and those who depend on it.”

Rivals who have attacked Romney’s Bain Capital because it let go workers don’t seem to appreciate how capitalism works, Cardenas says.

“Those Democrats who criticize him criticize him for the same reasons they don’t want to shrink a bloated government,” Cardenas says. ”They think that giving a pink slip to a government bureaucrat in order to reduce the size of government is a heartless thing. We consider that to be a champion of the taxpayer’s rights to keep more of our money.”

In business, Cardenas says, “You sometimes have two choices: You either reduce the work force and save the business, or the business fails and then everybody’s out of work.”

Asked if Romney will tap Rubio to run as his vice presidential candidate, Cardenas says he is confident the Florida senator will be among Romney’s top picks.

“If he gets the call, I’m hoping he says yes,” Cardenas says. “I know Marco wants to be the best senator he can be. He’s not lobbying for the job. But it’s very hard to turn down a future president in terms of serving your country.”

Ronald Kessler is chief Washington correspondent of Newsmax.com. He is the New York Times bestselling author of books on the Secret Service, FBI, and CIA. Read more reports from Ronald Kessler — Click Here Now.

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