Courtesy of MCT
When looking at the current Republican primary race to find a challenger to unseat President Barack Obama next year two things are immediately clear: the Republicans really want someone to defeat Obama and they really don’t want Mitt Romney to be that guy.
How else can one explain the seemingly endless string of potential candidates and declared candidates that have Republican voters excited? From Donald Trump and Sarah Palin (early potential front runners who have decided not to run) to Tim Pawlenty, Michele Bachmann and Rick Perry – all declared candidates that received a lot of interest before their candidacies flamed out, or in Perry’s case, is currently flaming out. The most recent darling of Republican voters is New Jersey Governor, Chris Christie, who after months of saying he would not run for the White House began to reconsider because he was drawing such extreme interest. He ultimately announced last Tuesday that he would not run.
The Republicans seem to be intent on making sure that somebody other than Romney is carrying the conservative shield against Obama in 13 months. Romney has as much experience in this race as any other declared or potential presidential candidate.
Unlike when Obama ran in 2008, Romney comes with experience as an executive having served as governor of Massachusetts. With the economy being touted as the No. 1 issue with American voters next year, it would seem that Romney’s gubernatorial experience would serve him well (he was able to eliminate an estimated $3 billion budget deficit). He comes from a state that typically votes for Democratic candidates so he is able to play to the centrist, the middle ground, where most voters in the general election identify with.
So why does it seem like GOP primary voters are going out of their way to nominate anyone but Romney? Perhaps no reason is greater than the rise of the Tea Party. The Tea Party is a movement within the Republican Party that believes in a sort of fundamentalist view of conservative values. To them government is the problem and can never be the solution. To many in the Tea Party movement, moderation is seen as appeasement, and compromise is not an option. In short, the Tea Party are the die hards, the true believers. And in a primary system (especially the Republican Presidential primaries) the people who show up to vote are those true blue believers who see Romney as not one of them.
They don’t believe Romney is one of them because he has been a moderate. The fact that he was able to be a successful governor of a liberal state means he had to be very good at reaching across the aisle and finding compromise. He oversaw the creation of a government-mandated healthcare system that in truth is more liberal than “Obamacare.” He won support from the Massachusetts Log Cabin Republicans – a gay Republican activist group – for his support for domestic partnership benefits. He refused to sign an anti-tax pledge, he was pro gun control. When campaigning for Governor he stated: “On a personal basis, I don’t favor abortion. However, as governor of the commonwealth, I will protect a woman’s right to choose under the laws of the country and the commonwealth. That’s the same position I’ve had for many years” – a statement he distanced himself from later. As governor, he was in favor of raising the minimum wage, stem cell research and environmental issues.
Romney’s stances as governor show that he is a moderate who can govern by working with the other side. In the general election, that can be a decided advantage for Romney, but Romney’s problem is he will be in the fight of his political life just to get past the primary unscathed. The purists that vote in the Republican primary are not independents, they believe they are fighting for the soul of America. Romney simply is not their guy. Palin, Trump, Bachmann and Perry all share a similar ideological philosophy.Romney’s record as governor makes him easy to portray as a flip-flopper.
Romney is not an ideologue; he isn’t a true blue believer. He is a politician trying to appease one group of voters in the hopes that he can play to the moderates that most Americans fall under in general. Romney will likely win the nomination, but he will not come out of it unscathed and there is a real chance that hardcore conservatives will not vote for him in the general election. The irony is that Romney is the best candidate to challenge Obama in the general election but he simply is not ideologically pure enough for the GOP base.
The Republican primary voters will likely be unable to look past their strict conservative principles to see the broader picture. Romney is the best candidate they have but he is not the one they want. Ultimately this disconnect will only end up costing the GOP the only goal that should matter: winning the White House.