Eight of 10 Americans say the country is on the wrong track.
We must consider clearly what kind of individual we need as president to take on the prodigious challenges facing us to get back on track.
We need a leader prepared to tell the American people what they don't want to hear. We need a leader obsessed with truth, not focus groups. We need a leader whose passion is not becoming president but saving America.
I just don't see these vital characteristics in Romney, but just the opposite. As we know, he has a history of flip-flopping on key issues â€“ such as same-sex marriage and abortion.
Most recently, he sat out, obviously intentionally, the whole critical debate on the debt ceiling.
And, perhaps of greatest immediate material concern, he continues to refuse to repudiate the health-care system he set up in Massachusetts. Yet he says he wants to repeal Obamacare, which is a carbon copy of Romneycare.
Let's understand today's leadership challenge this way.
How can we figure that, on one hand, polls show that Americans see our nation in dismal shape and headed in the wrong direction, yet at the same time other polls show they want moderation and compromise in policy?
There are two answers to this puzzle.
First, we are in a paradoxical situation in which most Americans today personally benefit from the very spending and programs that are bleeding us and strangling us to death.
Almost 70 percent of federal spending today â€“ the spending we all know must be cut if we are to survive â€“ consists of transfer payments to individuals. Fifty years ago, transfer payments to individuals consisted of less than 30 percent of federal spending.
And what overwhelming do these payments to individuals consist of that dominate federal spending? Entitlements. Social Security and Medicare.
In polling just released by Gallup asking what actions should be taken to reduce the federal debt, the most favored idea is raising taxes on the wealthy and the least favored idea is reforming Social Security and Medicare to reduce their costs.
Even if we were all ideologically disposed to address our growing pile of debt by raising taxes on the wealthy, we couldn't even begin to raise the amount of money that would be needed.
There is only one way we can address this debt, and that is by reforming the programs that account for the lion's share of spending. The very programs that most Americans personally benefit from â€“ Social Security and Medicare.
It should be clear that a bold and talented leader â€“ one who is prepared to tell the truth to the American people and who can inspire their trust to take on the very programs from which they personally benefit â€“ is who we need.
The other reason Americans lean instinctively against the very ideas and leaders that they really need is the liberal mainstream media.
The latest example of this problem is Newsweek's grotesque cover portrait of Michele Bachmann, showing a bizarre deer-in-the-headlights picture of this beautiful woman with a caption â€“ The Queen of Rage.
Of course Michele Bachmann is enraged. Every normal American who cares about earning a living and about our future is enraged.
So there's the challenge. Republicans need to pick a candidate who can sell Americans on what they instinctively won't want to do and do it in a liberal media environment hostile to any candidate willing to tell the truth.
A clever candidate, like Romney, may exploit current dissatisfaction and get nominated, and maybe elected, by smooth talking and avoiding hard truths.
But then we'll have a leader who won't lead â€“ and where will we be?
Star Parker is president of CURE, Coalition on Urban Renewal and Education (urbancure.org), a national organization that addresses issues of race and poverty through an agenda of faith, personal responsibility and limited government. She is also author of three books.