David Keene: Romney Is Likely GOP Candidate

Monday, 13 Jun 2011 01:22 PM

By Ronald Kessler

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The Republican presidential candidate is likely to be Mitt Romney, David Keene, president of the National Rifle Association and former chairman of the American Conservative Union, tells Newsmax.

Given the state of the economy, Romney’s credentials are unmatched, Keene says.

“Romney has the best economic credentials of anybody in the Republican Party,” Keene says. “So when he says I can deal with the economy and creating jobs, he’s probably more credible than almost any of the other candidates. He’s the only one really with a national infrastructure, a national fundraising base, and a national organization. So he’s done his groundwork over the last four years.”

Romney has the advantage of having run before, and he has grown since his last run at the White House, Keene says.

“He’s gotten comfortable with where he is,” Keene says. “I think he’s got a sense of what he wants to do and what he wants to do with the country, and I’m not sure that last time he ran, he really had all of that. He knew he had some assets to bring to the game, but I think he was thinking through his vision for the country. In the ensuing four years, he has written a book. He has thought about the ideas and positions, and I think he’s more complete as a candidate now than he was four years ago.”

Keene is one of the country’s most astute political observers. As noted in my story "David Keene Takes Over the NRA," Keene told me for a Newsmax story just after Barack Obama was elected president that he “did not win for the reasons he thinks he did, and he can be counted on to overreach, helping to return Republicans to power.”

While opponents will be able to use Romney’s Massachusetts healthcare plan against him, “The actual healthcare plan is not like Obamacare,” Keene says. “Even Ken Cuccinelli, the Virginia attorney general who has led the legal challenge to the healthcare mandate, says it’s different because the power of the states and the power of the federal government are very different. So whether it’s a wise thing or not, whether it was good policy or not, and whether it worked or not, it was not the same.”

While the Massachusetts plan is not unconstitutional, “All of these plans make the same mistake: They all increase the demand for medical care, but they didn't do anything about the supply,” Keene points out. “So you either have skyrocketing costs or you have rationing, and what’s happened in Massachusetts is what has happened elsewhere. The existing universe of doctors can't handle the increase in demand, and as a result, you get increased costs.”

As noted in my story "GOP Leaders Backed a Healthcare Mandate," the idea of a healthcare mandate originated with Republicans, and the conservative Heritage Foundation developed Romney’s healthcare plan, Keene says.

“The one thing Romney can say and has said basically is, ‘I am the only guy who grappled with this at the state level,’” Keene adds. “He can say, Some things worked and some things didn’t. Some things that came out of the legislature I didn’t like. We had to make compromises. We had to do things that drove up costs. I’m the only one who really knows how complicated it is, and what can and can’t be done.”

While Romney has “a better chance at being the nominee than anyone else,” Keene says, “he’s a long way from a slam dunk.”

Given the fact that President Obama can’t run on his record and point to successes, “It's going to be a vicious negative campaign because he has no alternative,” Keene says. “That means that if you are a potential Republican candidate who’s got some personal liabilities or could be portrayed negatively in a way that could hurt you or your family or your support, you might opt out of this one, and that’s what a lot of people have done.”

As a result, Keene says, “One of the reasons that the major figures now are Romney and Tim Pawlenty is because by all accounts, there’s nothing there personally that anybody could get on either one of them.”

Editor’s Note: Get Ron Kessler’s book, "The Secrets of the FBI."
Go Here Now.

Ronald Kessler is chief Washington correspondent of Newsmax.com. He is a New York Times best-selling author of books on the Secret Service, CIA, and FBI. His latest, "The Secrets of the FBI," is to be released in August. View his previous reports and get his dispatches sent to you free via email. Go Here Now.

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