The conventional wisdom going into the Republican primary was that Romney would be the GOP Establishment favorite and The Tea Party would back their own candidate who may overpower him.
Due to the makeup of the field of candidates, this scenario has tried to get off the ground repeatedly but like a Tea Party built airplane that only has two right wings, it just kept crashing after take off.
We all know the litany of GOP Tea Party front runners who have run off the cliff flapping their arms: Trump, Bachmann, Perry, Cain, Gingrich and Santorum. All of whom, even the latest flavor of the week, Santorum, succumb to the law of gravity after jumping off that cliff, even if they don’t believe in it.
The reason that the original scenario hasn’t come to fruition has been a combination of two things…the weakest and most flawed field of Presidential candidates, likely the worst in the history of Presidential elections and the splitting of the Tea Party vote between multiple candidates.
When you look at the numbers, the pro-Romney vote is about equal to the anti-Romney vote. The difference is that Romney gets all of his votes and the anti-Romney vote is split at least three ways.
It is possible that Huntsman and Paul dent Romney’s win in NH and he continues to SC weakened. It’s also possible that Tea Party and RW voters coalesce over one particular candidate and help that person consolidate the anti-Romney vote (as explored in a previous article: “How Mitt Romney Could Be Lockblocked“)
Romney has taking some potent hits over the weekend as well as today, some self-inflicted and others coming from rivals and the DNC:
- Huntsman has been slamming Romney for not putting the country first over partisanship.
- Newt called Mitt on his “pious baloney” about claiming he was just an altruistic businessman who isn’t interested in being a politician.
- In trying to make the case for privatized health care and giving people the right to leave an insurance company, Romney today gleefully exclaimed, “I like firing people”.
- Romney also stated today, “I know what it’s like to worry whether you’re going to get fired. There were a couple of times I wondered if I was going to get a pink slip.” and as the Boston Herald remarked, “Pundits and political opponents’ eyes began rolling immediately.” (Romney spokeswoman Andrea Saul had no specific dates or jobs to back Romney’s claims, but said his “pink slip” fears occurred “while he worked his way up the career ladder.”)
- Gingrich’s Super PAC has released a trailer today for a video documentary that slams Romney for his mercenary ways at Bain Capital.
- NBC News’ “Rock Center” is broadcasting a story tonight about Mitt Romney’s hidden family history including his father being a Mexican citizen and his grandfather being a polygamist.
Even with all of this and Romney’s numbers declining in NH, he has been so far ahead that he is still expected to win, albeit with a smaller margin than may have been expected. That would still give Romney bragging rights to winning two of two primaries going into South Carolina.
So, speaking solely from a logistical standpoint, there is no other candidate with the money and organization to compete with Romney throughout the primary (Perry was the only one who had that potential but he has failed spectacularly and will be out after SC).
Putting aside the possibilities of another candidate overcoming Romney’s mega-millions with populism, Romney could have a lock or at least a near lock on the nomination very early on.
And that may not be a bad thing for those who don’t feel that what we need right now in the White House is a George Bush sequel on steroids.
The original aspiration for many (including me) was that there would be a long and bruising fight between The Romney and The Anti-Romney that would leave the eventual winner in tatters and shoved far to the right…with the hope that the extremist Anti-Romney would be the eventual and easily beaten nominee.
But let’s think back to 2008 and consider if the battle between Obama and Hillary left him weaker or stronger, going into the General Election. Mitt seems poorly prepared at this point in time to deal with being confronted on his past, his lies and his BS persona. Might not a prolonged primary make him better prepared on this?
And think back to Obama’s biggest vulnerabilities. Rev. Wright, Bill Ayers, accusations of being Muslim, etc.. Hillary attacked Obama on all of these fronts and Obama ended up dealing with them all. By the time of the General Election, when McCain and Palin were trying to smear Obama with the same slime, the public yawned because it was old news.
Consider too that if the race for GOP candidate for President is a foregone conclusion early on, there will be little appetite and shrinking importance and news coverage for the primary races. As attention diminishes, so does the MSM megaphone for Romney to get out his “message” and attacks on Obama. Meanwhile, Obama as President will continue to have the bully pulpit to get his message out.
Add to all the above how the Tea Party folks will feel about the GOP Elite quickly crowning their own as nominee and shutting them out. The Tea Party is the biggest engine that drives voters in the GOP and being run over like this will have a devastating effect on thier participation and enthusiasm.
Can we really imagine Tea Partiers raucously cheering on Willard and getting excited at the prospect of a President Romney? Tea Party leader Matt Kibbe was on Hardball yesterday and when asked, “How will you get into the GOP convention?”, answered, “We won’t.” If that doesn’t sound like a ticking time bomb…
The swift nomination of Mitt Romney could indeed light the fuse that blows up the GOP into a civil war. Tea Partiers strongly dislike Romney and seem unlikely to avidly support him if he wins. In fact, they already seem to be taking it as backstabbing for the GOP Elite to have used them to take over the House then deny them the type of Presidential candidate they want.
The Tea Party may despise Obama but might they not use the excess of spite they’re filled with against those who have actually betrayed them and taken their party away from them?
For all of these reasons, I would propose that it is a win for President Obama if Romney becomes the de facto GOP Presidential nominee by next month.
Not only will it provide a less seasoned Romney when it comes to one-on-one debates (the mass debates he’s been in are very different from one-on-one debates) but it could greatly sap the enthusiasm and energy of the GOP (which has continued to decline as the debates have gone on…just the opposite of what is historically the case…the more Republicans and the public see of this field, the less they like them!).
It surely would have been delightful and hilarious to have had Rick Perry, Rick Santorum or Newt Gingrich running against Pres. Obama but with all of his weaknesses and being the symbol of corporate greed and uncaring elitists in this atmosphere of economic injustice and Occupy Wall Street, Mitt Romney might be the weakest candidate the Republicans could offer.