The Cable

Romney fundraising off of New START

Once and future presidential candidate Mitt Romney is sending around a new fundraising letter, asking for money so that he can fight President Obama‘s new nuclear-arms reductions treaty with Russia. "This is a critical midterm election year, and we need to ensure that we elect leaders who understand that a strong America is the best ...

AFP/Getty Images
AFP/Getty Images

Once and future presidential candidate Mitt Romney is sending around a new fundraising letter, asking for money so that he can fight President Obama‘s new nuclear-arms reductions treaty with Russia.

"This is a critical midterm election year, and we need to ensure that we elect leaders who understand that a strong America is the best hope for freedom and peace in the world, and who will put our national security interests first," Romney wrote in mass email asking for contributions to his Free and Strong America PAC.

"WILL YOU STAND WITH ME TODAY IN THIS EFFORT BY MAKING A CONTRIBUTION TO MY  PAC OF $35, $50, $100, $250, $500, $1,000, $2,500 OR EVEN THE MAXIMUM  $5,000?"

Romney declared his opposition to the new START treaty in a much-criticized Washington Post op-ed entitled "Obama’s Worst Foreign Policy Mistake." His fundraising drive echoes that line and also attacks Obama’s foreign policy writ large.

"Unfortunately, this is not the first time that President Obama’s foreign policy missteps have damaged our national security interests. His decision to abandon our missile defense system in Central Europe undercut key allies like Poland and the Czech Republic. And his policy of ‘engagement’ with rogue nations has been met with North Korean nuclear tests, missile  launches and the sinking of a South Korean naval vessel, while Iran has  accelerated its nuclear program, funded terrorists and armed Hezbollah with  long-range missiles," Romney wrote.

On START, Romney is clear in what he wants to happen. "Whatever the reason for the treaty’s failings, it must not be ratified: The security of the United States is at stake," he said.

That position is shared by his ideological cohorts at the Heritage Foundation, who are starting a nationwide anti-ratification grassroots effort via their new 501c4 group, Heritage Action for America. Romney has been working with this group.

But the Heritage Foundation’s main analyst on such matters, Baker Spring, didn’t write the Romney op-ed, he tells The Cable. He does think the article signals a theme that many Republicans will now use to oppose not only START, but other arms-control initiatives the Obama team has plans to push forward.

"There’s now, in play, two fundamentally different views regarding arms controls in the post-Cold War world," Spring said. "The question, simply and straight forwardly, is: Is the U.S. going to fashion an arms control policy based on at least the possibility if not the likelihood of a proliferated environment? Or is it going to go back to essentially the tried and true verities of Cold War-style, retaliation-based deterrence as a defining mechanism for what arms controls should obtain, as a fundamental goal?"

Spring acknowledges that his and Romney’s views differ from those of most leading Senate Republicans, including Jon Kyl, R-AZ, and John McCain, R-AZ, two key GOP voices on START. Both Kyl and McCain are keeping their powder dry, bargaining for concessions on missile defense and nuclear modernization before they will say which way they intend to vote.

According to The Hill, Kyl and Vice President Joseph Biden are in negotiations over the treaty now.

Spring says that the basic positions of the two camps of Republicans are the same, but that senators are holding their fire as part of their strategy to get the most concessions possible.

"When you look at the Kyls and McCains of the world, I don’t think there’s at this point in time much difference between their position and where [South Carolina Sen. Jim] DeMint and Romney will be. I think that’s a simple matter of legislative tactics," said Spring.

Senate sources said that various senators are preparing two types of measures that could impact the START debate, whenever it does get to the Senate floor. One type, an amendment to the resolution ratifying the treaty, would, if passed, force the document to go back to the Russians for another round of negotiations. That could be a ratification killer in a practical sense, by overcomplicating the process until it loses steam.

Another, less controversial way to express concerns would be a statement of reservation that a senator could try to tack on to the treaty. This could allow the GOP to air its complaints while still allowing ratification to go forward.

What’s clear is that the Obama administration is working the GOP caucus hard to try to firm up the eight to 10 votes they will need to reach the 67-vote threshold. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton met with Sen. Bob Corker, R-TN, Tuesday and Defense Secretary Robert Gates went to talk with GOP senators about START as well.

Leading former senators from both parties are also joining the debate to make the case for ratification. Former Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle and former GOP Senator Chuck Hagel are each headlining a pro-START think tank event this month.

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