The GOP And The State Of The 2012 Election
The most fascinating element of this election has been the complete inability of the conservative wing of the party to mount a suitable challenger to Romney. To be fair, the Republicans have been cursed with an extremely unimpressive field of candidates, devoid of even George W. Bush’s level of gravitas. Republican heavyweights such as New Jersey Governor Chris Christie, Indiana Governor Mitch Daniels, and former Florida Governor Jeb Bush all chose to sit on the sidelines. The Republicans were subsequently left with a field so pathetic that Donald Trump was briefly a frontrunner (before he returned to the important business of Reality TV).
We have seen frontrunners ranging from a chronically philandering pizza man to a governor from Texas even less intelligent than Bush. Candidate after candidate has risen and fallen in the quest to be the anti-Romney candidate. There is plenty of anti-Romney sentiment going around, as Romney has consistently polled no higher than 25% nationally. The majority of Republicans are uninspired with their field of choices and, more importantly, do not want Mitt Romney as the party’s nominee. Yet despite all this, the lack of other suitable options has given Romney an air of inevitability.
There is no way the conservatives in the Republican Party can go down quietly and accept Romney as the nominee. This is a man who ran with a platform to the left of Ted Kennedy when he faced him for election in Massachusetts. Barack Obama’s health care plan, regarded by most Republicans as the President’s cardinal sin, was literally crafted by Romney while he was governor of Massachusetts. Oh yeah, Romney also used to be pro-choice and in favor of gay marriage.
If this seems familiar, it is because almost these exact circumstances led to John McCain’s nomination just four years ago. McCain, always trumpeting himself as a “Maverick,” is widely blamed by conservatives for 2008’s defeat. Their rationale is that he is not a true conservative. This is probably true; McCain did shamelessly change many lifelong positions to fall in line with the increasingly right-wing party, just as Romney has done, but McCain has never been accepted by conservatives as anything more than a RINO (Republican in name only).
Romney’s slippery brand of flip-flopping is a necessary tactic for him in today’s Republican Party. Republican voters are an increasingly tough crowd these days, and any semblance of moderation or olive branches from the other side of the aisle has become anathema to them. No one can run as a moderate in today’s Republican Party and expect to make it far. Former Utah Governor Jon Huntsman is polling almost dead last, already long dismissed as far too liberal. Huntsman’s major blunder this campaign might have been admitting that climate change exists and is caused by man. After daring to embrace established science, Huntsman has been a non-factor in the race.
Conservatives must coalesce around someone, but it is still unclear who it will be. Embattled former speaker Newt Gingrich still believes he can be the one, but there isn’t much Newt Gingrich doesn’t believe about his own abilities. Former Senator Rick Santorum came in a virtual tie with Romney in the Iowa Caucus. But this is probably mostly due to fortunate timing for the surging Santorum. There is no reason to believe he won’t wither under scrutiny like the rest of the former frontrunners have.
The Republicans are likely stuck with Romney. And for the fate of the country, will it matter much? There is not as much daylight between Romney and Obama on most issues as most people would believe. Romney is a moderate at heart, and President Obama has governed his first term as a moderate.
The Republicans also have the best chance to win with Mitt Romney; no other candidate will be palatable to Independents. Yet hardcore conservatives must truly be disappointed. For the second election cycle in a row, a moderate seems likely to win the nomination of a party increasingly hostile to moderates of any kind.
Reach Staff Columnist Jordan Klein here.