From the same pundits who brought you President
Trump Bachmann Perry Cain Gingrich comes a “This time for sure!” declaration that Mitt Romney will be the Republican nominee and that he is likely to wrap it up quickly.
Now, unlike their many previous proclamations, this time they are safely snuggled in the warmth of the odds and the conventional approach of the GOP towards choosing nominees….that is, giving the nomination to the guy whose turn it is.
Like George H.W. Bush, Bob Dole, George W. Bush and John McCain before him, going into this primary, it is Mitt Romney’s turn. He was and is the only GOP establishment guy who paid his dues the last time around and happily toes whatever line is required to reflect their agenda.
Mitt Romney has a huge pile of campaign money, a sneaky Super PAC that is flush with Wall Street and GOP Elite money, organization in most states that matter and as in the Creationist Museum, Romney is also riding on the backs of GOP dinosaurs like the elder Bush and John McCain.
Despite Rick Perry’s faith in miracles and the flat shape of the Earth, no one else in the GOP Presidential field has all of these strengths. So, Mitt Romney stands giant head and perfectly square shoulders above the rest of the candidates.
Mitt Romney has a lock on the GOP nomination and it the race should be over quickly, ask any pundit you happen to see, whether at a freeway off-ramp holding a cardboard sign or leaning on a lamp post with bleached blonde hair and a mini skirt.
Then again, since they’ve been right as often as $2 watch, maybe at least part of this meme is not as certain as it may seem.
As mentioned above, it is betting against the odds to say that Romney won’t be the nominee but it may not be such long odds to propose that he may not be able to lock this up for some time.
Let’s begin by considering his performance in the Iowa Caucus and his poll numbers throughout the run up to the primary. Aside from polls in New Hampshire, Romney has not typically polled above 25% in state or national polls. In this week’s Iowa Caucus, Romney again couldn’t break 25% and in fact, received a few less votes than he garnered when he came in second in 2008 (did Romney win or did the competition just lose and make his 2nd place showing from last year become 1st place by default?).
While 25% has been sufficient to be the front runner or 2nd place along the way, it can’t be overlooked that 75% of Republicans prefer voting for frothing-at-the-mouth or drooling-at-the-mouth loonies rather than support the “sensible” candidate, Mitt Romney.
In a field this weak, with candidates claiming that child labor will fix the economy, there are eight Supreme Court justices and the official US voting age is 21, HPV vaccines cause nearly instantaneous mental retardation, contraception should be outlawed, and that repeating the number 9 three times is an economic plan, Mitt Romney can’t break away.
In a crowd of midgets, he may be the tallest by a hair but he is still a midget.
The reasons for Romney’s 25% ceiling are familiar to most who have been following the GOP primary. He comes across as a fraud with no convictions other than winning at any cost. The Tea Partiers, Religious Right and hard core social conservatives strongly dislike and distrust Romney who set up Romneycare in Massachusetts and campaigned as a strong supporter of gay rights and pro-choice in his previous incarnation.
Though I disagree with these right wingers on just about everything, on this I have to admit we share the same opinion…Mitt Romney is not someone who can be trusted and is dishonest. Fortunately, it doesn’t hurt the agenda I support for Romney to become the GOP nominee because I think his unlikeability and snake oil salesman persona is his doom in a General Election against the inarguably liked and genuine Barack Obama.
So what are Right Wing Republicans to do when looking down the road at an inauthentically conservative Mitt Romney as their nominee?
This weekend, a group of social/religious conservative leaders such as Gary Bauer, president of the conservative group American Values, and James Dobson, the evangelical Christian leader who founded the Focus on the Family activist group, will be meeting in Texas to try and come together in supporting one candidate who represents their hateful, oppressive agenda. Their fear is that, as happened in 2008, the social religious vote will be splintered between multiple candidates and the weak moderate candidate will win by default.
Looking at the 75% anti-Romney vote out there, they have a good point but they don’t have a good candidate. Who could they unite behind? Santorum represents hard core conservative Catholic beliefs and is clearly on the fringe. Gingrich is loaded with baggage and has just recently crashed and burned in IA. As for Perry, he comes off as a complete moron but only when his lips are moving.
Yet, if they don’t unite behind one candidate, they absolutely won’t have a nominee that will help make Evangelistic Christianity the law of the land.
It’s hard to guess if they could come together on one candidate and even if they do, will the flock will follow their recommendation? For argument’s sake though, let’s say they do. Just looking at the latest Gallup national poll numbers, Gingrich, Perry and Santorum together have 36% of the vote, Romney has 27% (Ron Paul voters are mostly fanatics and not swayed by anything away from him and Huntsman barely registers any support).
If most of that 36%, perhaps just 28% of it can be focused on one candidate, Romney could be defeated.
Romney is the most likely candidate to win the nomination but he is not a lock. He will likely win in New Hampshire by a good margin but that’s factored into the mix by GOP voters and other candidates. I don’t think anyone other than Huntsman would drop out after NH. The next primaries are in South Carolina and Florida which could take a lot of wind out of Romney’s sails and his inevitability. The most recent polls in SC and FL are weeks old and reflect when Gingrich was the anti-Romney favorite but Romney’s numbers in both states were in the same 20%-27% range.
If Romney can be denied SC and FL or if he wins but not convincingly, which remains possible no matter his margin of victory in NH, the punditry meme would quickly turn from Romney as inevitable to Romney as collapsing.
And another thing to consider is that the more Romney looks to be closing in on the nomination, the more the drive to stop him could grow among the hard right of the GOP. So, a strong showing in NH which seems inevitable could be what causes a huge backlash against Romney in SC and FL.
Let’s say however that the religious and social conservatives are again divided and conquered and Romney wins the nomination. Is the enthusiasm for another default presidential candidate going to be rabid or muted?
It is true that there are enough racists and haters out there who would overlook everything they hate about Romney just to throw Obama out of the White House. However, the enthusiasm that could have been, won’t be. The real pain for the Right Wingers will come when Romney gets into the General Election and steers to the middle. Though it is a standard tactic, with Romney’s track record, it seems that his flip-flopping to the middle on social issues should inflame many RW Republicans and prove out their worst fears about Romney.
This would seem to be a massive obstacle to Romney’s campaign. As he has veered farther right in the primaries to convince the GOP faithful that he is a hard right conservative, any move he makes to the middle in the GE to woo independent voters, who are absolutely necessary to attract to win the Presidency, will be a confirmation to Right Wingers that they were played and a morale killer.
The Obama campaign might in fact find it advantageous to advertise to indie voters in a way that’s accessible for Republicans, “See, Romney is a fake conservative and untrustworthy.” It is a way of killing two birds with one stone, disqualifying Romney with indies and diffusing enthusiasm in Republicans.
As for the upcoming weeks, let’s see if the Religious Right can or can’t come together behind a single candidate, if Newt can inflict any serious damage on Romney in Sunday’s debate and in the future and if Romney falters in SC and FL.
Romney will likely win in NH by a healthy margin but once NH is over, Romney may indeed find himself lockblocked.