Why Mitt Romney Will Make a Crummy Candidate
Polls consistently show that at least a plurality of likely voters consider Mitt Romney to be the strongest potential nominee that the GOP could put forth this year. The former Massachusetts governor is seen as the candidate who is conservative enough to unite the Republican Party behind his banner, yet centrist enough to appeal to the political center, the support of which will be needed to defeat Mr. Obama in November. It’s true that polls consistently show former governor Romney trailing President Obama by the smallest margin of all the Republican candidates. But the reputations and popularity of newly coronated nominees don’t always last. Just ask President Dukakis, who was hailed as a Democratic hero and led then Vice President George H.W Bush by up to seventeen points in the polls, before stumbling and falling in the face of withering attacks from the incumbent party.
Mr. Romney seems to be in an almost unassailable position to win the Republican nod, and while I fully expect this to happen, I also believe Republican caucusgoers and primary voters are making a terrible mistake. Not only is Mitt Romney-the political chameleon, the moderate Massachusetts governor-turned-conservative-candidate the most ideologically fickle and impure of the candidates, he also has the most serious potential weaknesses in the general election, which as of now haven’t been exploited by his Republican rivals but will be made full use of by the forces for President Obama’s reelection.
Above is an ad that attacks Mitt Romney for his many flip-flops based on political convenience. I encourage readers to watch it. While it was produced by the Democratic National Committee, some of the points raised in it are legitimate. At the very least, the ad should be viewed as a warning to conservatives of the onslaught that could follow a Mitt Romney nomination.
The ad makes hay over Romney’s frequently changed positions on core issues—driving home the message that he doesn’t seem to have any real core convictions. That’s the most frequent criticism that is heard of Mitt Romney, but he actually has other serious electoral flaws.
We can start with his history in the private sector, which has usually been lauded as an asset. Working for Bain Capitol, Mitt Romney’s job was to buy up troubled companies, fire people until the company was reduced to a manageable size, then sell out the company shares for a profit. The merits of his occupation could be argued and defended, but the fact of the matter is that Romney’s past at Bain and his role in firing employees could be anything from a minor distraction to a huge liability. Even if Mr. Romney can sell the idea that his actions were justified and reasonable, the soon-to-be famous picture of him posing in an expensive suit with hundred dollar bills literally overflowing from his pockets and breast pocket surely won’t play well with the millions of voters who have felt the lash of the Great Recession the hardest.
Another problem, related to his larger past of flip-flopping, is his support of the individual mandate, which is the most unpopular feature of Obamacare among conservative voters. While some of the other candidates in the past have made statements favoring the mandate, Mitt Romney is the only candidate who actually acted in favor the the individual mandate, signing legislation that compelled Massachusetts residents to purchase insurance of pay a fee. It’s plain to see that the general election will hinge in part on the debate over President Obama’s health care reform. And while Mitt Romney can point to differences in the two bills for as long as he wants, the fact that both laws require citizens to purchase health care or pay a penalty—an intrusion of Big Government as defined by conservatives—makes the two laws fundamentally similar. It’s a pity for conservatives that they are on the cusp of nominating the man who is in the worst possible position to make the case against the Affordable Care Act.
A mostly losing record in political campaigns is the hardest evidence available of Romney’s weakness as a candidate Despite Romney’s recent claim to not be a career politician, he has in fact been in politics for almost twenty years. He’s no less of a career politician than any of the other candidates—he’s just not as good at winning elections as Rick Perry, Newt Gingrich, Michelle Bachmann and Ron Paul. His first campaign, a US Senate run, began in 1993 with a Mitt Romney who labeled himself as unapologetically pro-choice, vowing to defend a woman’s right to choose. He also boasted in a letter that he would be a greater proponent of gay marriage than Ted Kennedy. How does someone undergo such a dramatic conversion? It’s simple, really. At the time of his first political campaign, Mitt Romney had a firm conviction, believing deeply, with all of his soul, that he wanted to be a Senator from liberal-leaning Massachusetts.
Romney’s long and unsuccessful career in politics means that there is naturally no shortage of film clips of his interviews and policy statements. Some of those clips are quite damaging, and surely there are Democratic operatives who can’t wait to incorporate them into attack ads. For example, in one interview a smiling Mitt Romney is speaking out against the auto industry bailout. When pressed for his idea of a solution, Romney continues to smile, simply saying “Let Detroit go bankrupt.” Has there ever been a serious candidate for the presidency who expressed indifference or even amusement at the idea of financial ruin for a major US city? It’s taken out of context, you might say. What he really means is that companies need to be held accountable and hit rock bottom on their own, in the spirit of capitalism. Well, Romney clarifies in the clip. “That’s exactly what I said,” he says, straightening up but still smiling into the camera. “Let Detroit go bankrupt.”
The ads just write themselves. Pictures of President Obama touring a factory, shaking hands, meeting unemployed people, contrasted with Romney, smiling in his suit, as he repeats the line. Such an ad would surely be run in Michigan by President Obama’s savvy reelection team. Are the Republicans trying to lose the seventeen electoral votes of Michigan next year?
Of course, if the economy gets any worse, Mitt Romney would still have a good shot against President Obama next year. He could still win. But in a year with unemployment as high as it is, with economic fear rampant and a natural base that is excited and mobilized, a Republican victory would come in spite of the candidate Romney. In a year where the stars seem to be aligned for a conservative revolution, are Republicans really expected to settle for this?
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