On Wednesday, I wrote a post at United Liberty arguing that libertarians and Tea Party conservatives should embrace former Governor Mitt Romney (R-Mass.) as the best viable candidate to take on Barack Obama. Yesterday I penned another post pointing out that former House Speaker Newt Gingrich (R-Ga.) and former Senator Rick Santorum (R-Penn.) are much more connected to the Washington, D.C. establishment than Gov. Romney. Whether Tea Party conservatives like it or not, their own convictions demand that they back Gov. Romney over Speaker Gingrich or Sen. Santorum.

Tea Party conservatives liked former Governor Rick Perry (R-Tex.) because he had governed a state and hadn’t spend any time in D.C. The same is true of Romney. They also favored Herman Cain (R-Ga.) because his career had been in the private sector prior to running for public office. Romney, too, was a successful businessman for decades before his first political campaign against the late Ted Kennedy in 1994. By contrast, Gingrich and Santorum spent almost no time in the private sector, built long congressional careers for themselves by consistently siding with the Beltway establishment, and have enjoyed lucrative stints since leaving office as mainstream media commentators and political consultants.

Is Romney a perfect candidate? No. Anyone who has spent any time following politics knows that perfect candidates don’t exist. That Romney signed a universal health care bill as Governor of Massachusetts that includes an individual mandate is unquestionably a pockmark on his record. But at least Romney seems to understand that while the constitution may permit a state to adopt such a law, the federal government lacks the power to do so. Newt Gingrich didn’t understand that or didn’t care, and in recent days serious questions have been raised about Rick Santorum’s possible past support for federal individual mandates.

Tea Party conservatives need to stop obsessing over the relatively few reasons they don’t like Romney and start looking at his positives. Romney wants to cut, cap, and balance the federal budget. He has also embraced the plan offered by Congressman Paul Ryan (R-Wisc.) to reform Medicare and has his own plan that the Wall Street Journal has called “a bolder, better reform” than anything Gingrich has offered. Meanwhile, Gingrich has publicly called the Ryan plan “right-wing social engineering.” Romney has offered a bold plan for reforming labor laws* to help American businesses be more competitive. As a senator, Santorum again and again cast votes to rig the economy in favor of labor unions and render American businesses unable to compete in a global market.

Mitt Romney knows how to run a real business. Newt Gingrich and Rick Santorum don’t. Mitt Romney has governed a state. Newt Gingrich and Rick Santorum haven’t. Mitt Romney has never spent any time in D.C. Newt Gingrich and Rick Santorum spent decades. Unlike Newt Gingrich, Mitt Romney recognizes the urgency of cutting and capping federal spending, balancing the budget, and reforming entitlements all while keeping taxes low. Mitt Romney will set American businesses free from the grip of government-union collusion so that they can be competitive in the international marketplace. Rick Santorum’s record indicates that he won’t. It’s time for Tea Party conservatives to acknowledge that Mitt Romney is the candidate for whom they’ve been looking and vote accordingly.

* I have previously expressed my opposition to so-called “right to work” legislation. I stand by that opposition while endorsing Romney’s other labor reforms. For an explanation of why some libertarians oppose right to work legislation, see this February 2011 article from Timothy P. Carney in the Washington Examiner: “Mitch Daniels is right, and Right to Work is wrong”.