Now here’s a compelling question. Does the G.O.P. and the conservative elite need to doctor up Mitt Romney so as to make him seem conservative enough to be electable? It’s no secret that large numbers of conservatives don’t see Romney as a fellow traveler and that poses two great risks to the G.O.P., the prospect of a third party bid, a sure formula for defeat, or the other equally unattractive option, a conservative voters strike on election day. If conservative voters decide to “hold their noses and vote for Romney” so much the better for the Republican elite. They’re more than happy to co-opt the votes of the far right so long as they don’t have to let them into those “quiet rooms” where they actually formulate policy.
Since Romney’s Florida primary victory and since his latest gaffe, there has been a raft of criticism from the right, aimed directly at him. Representative of these attacks is Jonah Goldberg who penned “What’s Wrong With This Guy?”; to wit:”Congratulations to Mitt Romney for his big win last night. It was a win that, Romney supporters hoped, would help bury concerns about his ability to seal the deal to do what it takes. But I’m not so sure…As a bunch of us have been writing around here for a while, the under-emphasized dynamic in this race isn’t that Romney isn’t conservative enough (though that’s obviously a real concern out there) it’s that he’s simply not a good enough politician. He may be the most electable on paper. He’s certainly a nice guy, decent father, smart, successful etc. But, every time he seems to get into his groove and pull away he says things that make people think he doesn’t know how to play the game. That can be reassuring to some, who take it as proof he’s not another politician. The problem, for others at least, is that because he isn’t a natural politician he breaks the language where it needs to bend. He uses language — “I like to fire people!” “It’s nothing to get angry about” etc — that doesn’t make him seem like an unconventional politician. Rather his language makes him seem like a caricature of a conventionally stiff country club Republican.”
Then there’s Laura Ingraham who wrote “I Don’t Know If Mitt Romney Can Beat’ Obama”. Ingraham, nobody’s “progressive” said: “A bunch of us sitting next to each other– very prominent conservatives, former Bush Cabinet members — we’re looking at each other going, ‘I don’t know if Mitt Romney can beat him…He’s got to bring his A-game, and he can’t just do, you know, the kind of thing he’s doing with Gingrich, because Obama’s operation is really smart…And I think they’re going to run a tough campaign.” And let’s not forget that stalwart of conservative stalwarts, Rush Limbaugh. Quoting a piece appearing in the Huffington Post: “Rush Limbaugh threw up his hands on his Wednesday show, laying into Mitt Romney for his comments that he is “not concerned about the very poor” because they have a safety net. Limbaugh said Romney is making it harder and harder to beat President Obama.” And in Limbaugh’s own words “He comes across as the prototypical rich Republican. And it’s gonna make it harder and harder and harder and harder to go after Obama because this turns around on him. You know, all these Wizards of Smart in the Republican establishment say, ‘We can’t have Newt out there! Why, Newt’s gonna be the topic. We need Obama to be the topic. We need Obama to be the guy campaign’s about. If Newt’s out there, it’s only gonna be about Newt.’ Well, what evidence is there that it’s not gonna be about Romney with these kinds of statements?”
I could probably go on digging up similar statements revealing the alarm coursing through the conservative movement resulting from the prospect of Mitt Romney as nominee but the three aforementioned sources are pretty typical of the far right’s chattering class. You can bet your bottom dollar that the same degree of alarm is afoot within the Republican elite when they consider the image of the chimerical con man Newt Gingrich as the Party’s standard bearer. But just going with the conventional thinking for the moment, that Romney will be the eventual nominee, are we in fact, looking at the best of several bad choices? Does Romney have so many flaws regarding his ability to connect with voters, some of it the result of his vast wealth, that he is essentially in need of a image rehabilitation so as to make him presentable in November? Does this very issue detract from his electability to the point that it may cost the Republican’s the election in November, a contest that should be able to win, all factors being equal? Is there, in fact, even enough time to affect such a rehabilitation of Mitt Romney’s image and won’t that effort in and of itself create a new avenue of attack for the Obama campaign? Will the leadership of the G.O.P. in their post mortems of 2012 sit back and wonder why the Party couldn’t have found a strong, suitable and engaging candidate with which to knock off a less than stellar incumbent? There are already a multitude of questions raining down on the G.O.P. as to whether or not it has done a good job in launching its bid to retake the White House. The more mistakes and questions that surface regarding Romney, the more difficult the campaign against Barack Obama grows going forward.
Steven J. Gulitti
Laura Ingraham: ‘I Don’t Know If Mitt Romney Can Beat’ Obama; http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/01/30/laura-ingraham-mitt-romney-beat-obama_n_1241143.html
Rush Limbaugh On Mitt Romney’s ‘Very Poor’ Comments: He Sounds Like ‘The Prototypical Rich Republican’; http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/02/02/rush-limbaugh-mitt-romney-very-poor-comments-rich-republican_n_1249502.html