In our endorsement of Mitt Romney before the Iowa Caucuses four years ago, we wrote of America's need for a president possessed of "energy, intellect, vision, charisma and experience" to lead the nation in meeting "formidable, complex, divisive, political and dangerous" challenges.
Since then, the nation's challenges - in particular, its domestic economic challenges - have grown still more acute.
Within this year's Republican presidential field, Romney again stands out as the candidate who is best prepared through experience, skills and qualities to lead the country. Today the Journal endorses the businessman, former Massachusetts governor and former Winter Olympics CEO in the Jan. 3 caucuses.
The 2012 election for president is, first and foremost, about the economy, jobs and the federal budget. Whether it's Barack Obama or a Republican, stark realities face the winner.
On Wall Street and in the banking and housing industries, red flags dot the landscape of our fragile post-recession recovery, and growth is stagnant. Unemployment remains high. In short, the nation's fiscal house is a mess. Red ink runs deep, regulation of business runs amok, and crucial overhauls of how the federal government spends, taxes and provides entitlements await action. Looming over everything is the escalating Euro-zone debt crisis.
Polarized and paralyzed, our leaders in Washington appear incapable of engaging in the compromises and making the difficult choices necessary to turn our economic ship before it strikes the iceberg.
As a result, the national mood is a mixture of anxiety, frustration and anger. According to an October Gallup poll, just 13 percent of Americans are "satisfied with the way things are going" in the country.
Through successful, executive decision-making experience in both the private and public sectors, Romney understands economics and fiscal principles in a real-world way. In other words, he's walked the walk. In this year's Republican field, he is the candidate most capable of not only articulating a blueprint for a stronger economy and the restoration of fiscal sanity in Washington, but of assembling a high-caliber team of advisors, forging consensus within Congress and rallying the nation in support of it.
Romney founded his own venture capital and investment company, turned the once-troubled 2002 Winter Olympic Games into a profit-maker and led a state in which registered Democrats outnumbered registered Republicans nearly three to one and 85 percent of the Legislature was Democratic at the time from a $3 billion budget deficit when he took office in January 2003 to a $700 million budget surplus by the end of 2004. He knows how to build success, achieve reform and forge consensus in support of goals.
Do not discount the importance of personal traits in a candidate for president. As we said in our 2007 endorsement of Romney, if a presidential candidate is a polarizing figure within the halls of Congress and devoid of the personal characteristics necessary to inspire Americans to listen and follow, his or her plans have little to no chance of success, regardless of how detailed and well-conceived they might be. Like the popular Ronald Reagan, Romney combines a pragmatic conservatism with confidence (not arrogance) and an easy, comfortable style and manner, even charm.
If as a Republican your No. 1 priority is the defeat of Obama, consider this: Romney is the candidate within this field who is best-positioned to win general election votes from not simply Republican voters, but from the all-important Independents in the middle, as well as from moderate Democrats on the left.
We do not question Romney's conservative credentials, whether the issue is economics, national defense or social issues. In Romney, the nation would get a candidate committed to reduced taxes, reduced spending and reduced regulation. He advocates for hiking defense spending to 4 percent of GDP and increasing active-duty forces by 10,000, and we trust him in taking the 3 a.m. national security call. If it's a "family values" candidate you want, Romney is a good and decent man of integrity who lives the values he espouses. By virtue of his bid for president in both 2008 and 2012, no candidate in this year's Republican field has been vetted like Romney. If no skeleton has been discovered in his closet to this point, it's likely there isn't one.
Through a plethora of summer and fall Republican debates, we have taken the measure of the candidates alongside one another, as well. In each one, Romney has been poised, informed and reasoned. In our view, his debate performances also have set him apart from the rest of the pack.
Bottom line: We believed a Romney-vs.-Obama general election campaign would best serve the nation in 2008, and we believe the same is true in 2012.