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Originally published March 1, 2012 at 3:18 PM | Page modified March 1, 2012 at 3:37 PM

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Washington's GOP caucus default choice: Mitt Romney

Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney is the credible choice to advance into Super Tuesday with a win in the Washington caucuses. He is the only option in a weak field.

Seattle Times Editorial

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THE 20th, and possibly last, debate among GOP presidential candidates is mercifully over. Washington's Republican precinct caucuses on Saturday force a choice.

Hmmm. Ah, Mitt Romney. The former Massachusetts governor has the most potential in a thin field to represent his party in head-to-head competition with Democratic President Barack Obama.

This is certainly no endorsement of Romney's candidacy. We share Republican Attorney General Rob McKenna's obvious ambivalence about making an early commitment.

Indeed, President Obama, whom this editorial page endorsed in 2008, has to make the case for another four years in the White House. This election season has a long journey to November.

For purposes of the Washington caucuses, which some political handicappers suggest will be noticed and have an impact, Romney is the practical choice.

His résumé suggests the broadest capacity to engage the president and drive a clarifying discussion about where the president and, indeed Romney himself stand on issues of war and peace, health care, the economy and jobs, the environment and personal liberties.

Throughout the GOP campaign, Romney has been his own biggest impediment. He is reluctant to talk about his lucrative business career, and he has precious little gift for connecting with voters on a human level. Tuesday, he squeaked out a native-state victory in Michigan, and topped the chaos of Arizona politics.

His fumbles and foibles on the salvation of the auto industry in Michigan via government bailouts have been quite extraordinary. A substantive discussion of foreign policy has been studiously avoided by Romney — and all the Republicans — except for rote saber-rattling oratory against Iran.

Romney does not excite voters and is a suspect choice, except for all the others. Rick Santorum, Ron Paul and Newt Gingrich, and a trail of others in the dust, are prone to roar off in directions disconnected from the lives of ordinary people coping with the Great Recession.

Paul, the Texas congressman, has polled well among young voters in early primaries, but beyond flashes of coherence on defense issues and getting troops home, he slips off the edge. The more Santorum speaks the more apparent it becomes why he was trounced for re-election to the U.S. Senate. As for the profoundly pompous Gingrich, what more needs to be said?

Romney has business credentials and service as an elected executive. He has been responsible for budgets and policy and making them work. Well outside the experience of his GOP opponents.

The expectation is for Romney and Obama to have an authentic, meaningful conversation about the future of the United States.

Start with reinstatement of Wall Street and Main Street banking and investment regulations. Downsizing Pentagon spending and reinvesting in public infrastructure. Powering innovation and education. Protecting the environmental health of the nation. A few topics to launch the discussion.

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