Alex and G.B. have raised some points about Romney and his strengths and weaknesses relative to the other candidates. I was going to respond in the comments section of the appropriate post, but considering Romney's win in Michigan and the continuing nature of my concerns about him I'll do so here instead.
Romney greatly frustrates me. I really do want to like him. I'm no fan of Huckabee, McCain, or Fred (good on policy, but he's run his campaign like an arrogant ass who expects the nomination to just be handed to him). Rudy is my favorite (still), but his chances are rather slim at this point, even with the new chaos in the race. Thus, I want to believe that Romney would be a relatively meritorious alternative should Rudy fall out of the running. Moreover, it's obvious that Romney has some very appealing (to me), policy-wonk-like qualities. Alas, Romney constantly gives me (and a good proportion of the GOP electorate generally) more reasons not to support him.
Romney's Michigan campaign provides a case in point. With his business background, no one in GOP race was better qualified to diagnose Michigan's economic woes and propose solutions based on sound free-market principles. What did Romney do instead?
He proposed a $20 billion corporate welfare and central-planning package for the auto industry. As Byron York reported from Michigan for NRO:
His plan is to make the United States government a virtual partner of Ford, GM, and Chrysler. “If I’m president of this country, I will roll up my sleeves in the first 100 days I’m in office, and I will personally bring together industry, labor, Congressional and state leaders and together we will develop a plan to rebuild America’s automotive leadership,” Romney tells the Economic Club. “It will be a plan that works for Michigan and that works for the American taxpayer.”
The plan would involve easier-to-reach mileage standards, increased funding and extended tax breaks for research and development [there's the $20 billion -- B.A.], worker health care reforms, and more. “Detroit can only thrive if Washington is an engaged partner, not a disinterested observer,” Romney says. “I am not open to a bail out, but I am open to a work out. Washington should not be a benefactor, but it can and must be a partner.”
Could any economic conservative believe that Romney's European-style bailout (let's call it what it is) is consistent with conservative economic principles? As one wit put it, Romney won Michigan with "a Kruschev-style five year plan for Detroit."
I really do want to believe that Romney is not just a crass opportunist (even by the standards of a presidential candidate) who will say whatever he thinks will help in any given race. But the evidence otherwise is growing rather than diminishing.
P.S. As for Alex's shot at Rudy, I'll answer that later.