My ballot, Rock Spring precinct, Arlington VA

Here’s hoping that photo isn’t illegal.

Winston Elliott makes a relatively convincing case for Romney on the grounds that he “will work to reduce the size and scope of the federal leviathan. The voting booth is where we make practical choices. To think it is the place to declare our principles is folly.”

I get the sense that we share a more serious concern about Obama’s economic record than the majority of contributors to TAC’s election symposium. It’s true, Republican presidents don’t have the best record when it comes to living up to promises to shrink government. But George W. Bush’s cronyism benefited defense companies under pretenses of national security, or as with TARP, the rarefied world of finance that nobody understands. Obama’s cronyism benefited campaign supporters under pretenses of economic necessity. There’s a meaningful difference. That the administration seemed to think that the economy could be saved by giving out more contracts to companies with a prior relationship with the government–which is where most of them went–demonstrates a stunning level of ignorance, myopia, or corruption.

As much as I relish the idea of a President Romney unleashing an army of austerity goons to find every penny under every couch from the Amtrak HQ to the Department of Housing and Urban Development, I don’t really believe that he would (Daniel Larison elaborates on why conservatives can’t trust Romney). At the very least he has shown a flagrant disregard for balanced austerity by his commitment to grow defense spending, which is already absurdly high. Tactically as well, I part with Elliot. A presidential ballot isn’t the place for pragmatic choices. Our votes don’t matter enough.

As for the bad arguments from the “Get in Line” conservatives over at NRO: No, Romney would not repeal Obamacare, so the notion that its implementation in the next administration will fundamentally change the social contract or the American character is a moot point. On immigration, no matter how much the movement right has tried to whip conservatives into a frenzy over one executive order that Romney would keep, Obama has deported record numbers of illegal immigrants. There is no evidence to suggest Romney would be more of a restrictionist than Obama. (For a more tasty reheating of the same year-old Ann Coulter column, see Mickey Kaus.) Much of the conservative movement’s case against Obama this cycle has been built on the notion that his view of government is fundamentally unAmerican or even malicious. I believe that he’s merely incompetent, and his incompetence will be limited by a Republican House, and likely, if Obama wins, a Republican Senate in 2014.

More convincing is Alan Cornett’s “strategic and defensive” vote for Romney on religious liberty grounds. Yet we both don’t care for indefinite detention, drone strikes, and the president claiming the prerogative to assassinate American citizens without trial. To vote for a man with a minuscule chance of rolling back Roe v. Wade who has no compunctions about the power to indefinitely detain or murder citizens outside the womb seems, well, disproportionate. I’m a pragmatic guy, but that’s one of my red lines. Anyway, as Rod suggests in his recent reflections on his trip to Paris, traditionalist conservatives may be better off pursuing a libertarian politics (as a side note, it’s worth pointing out that a Johnson Court appointee, presumably being a strict constitutionalist, would be more likely to roll back Roe if nominated, if the past record of Republican nominees is any indication).

So this morning I checked the box for Gary. And George Allen, not because I like him, but because the race will be close and the Senate is too important.