- Losses sometimes carry with them a silver lining. For example, had Gerald Ford prevailed in 1976 against Jimmy Carter, it is unlikely Ronald Reagan would have been elected in 1980. Similarly, had George HW Bush won in 1992, Republicans almost certainly would not have captured control of the House and Senate in 1994 (thus paving the way for public policy successes such as welfare reform two years later and relative federal spending restraint for the remainder of the 1990s). A McCain victory in 2008, meanwhile, would have only delayed the inevitable, as Democrats surely would have won sizable victories in 2010 and 2012. Ask Democrats if they would rather have had Michael Dukakis win in 1988 than Bill Clinton in 1992.
- One argument in favor of Romney's election is that it will prevent Obama from wreaking any further policy havoc and stymie his big government agenda. But that's a bit like closing the barn door after the horse has already escaped. The worst has already taken place: stimulus, Dodd-Frank, Obamacare -- that's already done and unlikely to be repealed. Indeed, recall that if Romney is elected he will very likely face a Democratically-controlled Senate in absolutely no mood to cooperate with him.
- A Romney administration presents a rather limited upside. Lacking a mandate and facing a Democratic Senate, Romney is far more likely to resemble a second coming of Bush 41 than Reagan. Given roadblocks in Congress, Romney's chief impact will be felt in areas such as foreign policy (where he does not appear to be terribly different from Obama), an improved trade agenda (assuming of course, that his talk of standing up to China is just election year blithering) and relatively small-bore items such as expanded domestic energy exploration. Regulation is more likely to take a pause than dramatically be scaled back.
- A Romney victory does, however, bring with it tremendous potential downside. It's not obvious the economy will dramatically improve in the next few years in the current policy environment (at current job growth rates, unemployment will not return to its pre-recession level until well after 2020), and the resulting mediocre performance will no doubt be attributed to misguided Romneynomics, thus sullying the reputation of right-wing economics and the Republican name brand (important to those of us who care about economic freedom, as this is the only party that even offers the possibility of improvements on this front).
- Mitt Romney is likely to prove a rather poor standard bearer for the cause of limited government. He appears to be ideologically unmoored, lurching from positions such as indexing the minimum wage to inflation and mandating the purchase of health insurance while governor, to singing a very different tune in the presidential primaries. On the campaign trail in the general election, meanwhile, he has at times sounded like a Democrat. While some might call this welcome pragmatism, a less charitable interpretation is that the man simply hasn't given a great deal of thought to political philosophy, and thus lacks guiding principles. It's difficult to articulate the principles of limited government or spread its message if one doesn't even understand or subscribe to them in the first place.
To summarize, it is a distinct possibility that Mitt Romney's election could prove a Pyrrhic victory -- a tactical win but strategic loss that ultimately moves the country towards expanded government and a further retreat for freedom. Remember, the ultimate goal is limited government, not electing anyone with an "R" next to their name. While Romney could prove a capable or even outstanding president, it is perhaps equally possible -- even probable -- the opposite will be true. Food for thought as election night draws near.