Almost two months later, it continues. Not like I really expected it to stop, but I'd hoped it wouldn't become quite this ridiculous.
The rise and fall of Rick Perry has been well-documented (and thoroughly reinforced) in the weeks since I first suggested conservatives needed to stop leaping onto the backs of whatever candidate they felt was both more conservative than Mitt Romney and a better campaigner and saying "please carry us all the way through 2012". Shortly after Perry crashed and burned (and repeated the steps over and over), it was time for "Hermentum". Herman Cain, despite having admitted in the very first Republican debate of this election cycle that he knew nothing about foreign policy (and oddly considered that a strength), skyrocketed to about forty percent in some national polls. But his fall, while not quite as spectacular as Perry's, was far more predictable. After a lackluster performance in last week's debate on foreign policy, Cain gave an interview in which his lack of chops were embarrassingly on display. This, even more than his botched handling of the sexual misconduct allegations, demonstrates that he just doesn't know what he's doing.
Next, mystifyingly, came Newt Gingrich. I knew, without a doubt in my mind, that Newt wouldn't be the next "anti-Romney". How did I "know" this? Because last spring (not during the last election cycle or during the last Democratic president, but last spring), the former Speaker of the House of Representatives was on record saying that he supported a "variation" on the individual mandate in Obamacare on the federal level. Romney has been castigated just for implementing it on a state level, even though Romney had said as far back as 2007 that he wouldn't take his Massachusetts plan national. Even before Newt sat on the couch with Nancy Pelosi, Romney had refused to adopt "cap-n-trade" policies in Massachusetts, despite some knee-jerk charges to the contrary. As with Perry, Romney is actually to the right of Gingrich on a number of issues that "grassroots conservatives" claim are important. It's clear who the better campaigner is, given that Romney has organizations, endorsements, and actual campaign cash in every early state and most later ones, while Gingrich, supposedly a genius, couldn't keep his own campaign from imploding over the summer. And social conservatives should certainly be able to compare Romney's 42-year marriage to Gingrich's three marriages and come away with no confusion about who's the more consistent candidate.
And yet, Gingrich is now either tied or passing Romney in recent national polls?
Say it with me, now: it's time to grow up, conservatives.
What could the problem with Romney possibly be? It's not his "flip-flopping". Gingrich, Perry, and even Cain have all flip-flopped on important issues since the start of this election season, and they've all taken their turn as the Romney alternative. It's not that Romney is less capable or qualified than the others; polls consistently show that voters believe he's both the most capable and the most qualified. It's certainly not that they just like the other candidates better. These are the same candidates who have always been there, just like Romney has always been there, and yet they've all seen their numbers go up and then right back down (and believe me, Gingrich's numbers will go right back down).
One entertaining theory is that voters don't like the fact that Romney doesn't attack the president enough. That's a pretty stupid theory, which is why I won't bother to link back to the full analysis. Romney's campaign, practically since day one, has been focused entirely on attacking the president and his policies, while everyone else has been attacking each other. Mitt's taken a few shots at opponents in debates, as well, and even in a campaign ad or two, but his overwhelming focus has been on the president. I'm going to post just a few of my favorite Romney campaign videos below, and you tell me if you think Romney's been taking it easy on President Obama (the rest can be found on Romney's campaign site):
Here's my theory. It's not that Romney won't or can't attack Obama, or that there's no real difference between them. I think enough people out there are smart enough to realize that Romney could actually defeat Obama and be a substantial improvement over him. Romney knows how to put people back to work; he did it in the Olympics, he did it in Massachusetts, and he did it with hundreds of companies across the country. If you've ever eaten at Domino's, slept on a Sealy Mattress, or shopped at Staples, then you have Romney to thank for that. And it's certainly not the fact that he's a Mormon; there are more anti-Mormons on the Left than there are on the Right.
No, the real issue is Mitt's "inevitability". Voters hate not having a choice. They hate not being allowed to make up their own minds. They hate it when someone else, anyone else, tries to take that choice, that decision, out of their hands. And so, unfairly or not, they hate Romney for being the "inevitable" candidate. "He's next in line". Yeah, so is Ron Paul; in fact, since Ron Paul is on his third run, he's actually more "next in line" than Mitt is. "He's the establishment candidate". What "establishment"? No one in the Republican leadership, either in Congress or at the RNC, has endorsed him; in fact, they've practically begged other candidates to run against him. "He's too slick". Excuse me? I thought the point was to nominate someone who can win. You want slick over rough. Or have Rick Perry's debate performances taught you nothing?
I could give a fig about why you say you won't vote for Romney. Everything you can say about him can be said about all the other candidates running. The only difference is Mitt Romney was out there getting conservatives elected to public office in every state and at every level of government for three whole years following the 2008 elections while the other candidates, especially Newt Gingrich, were busy focusing on their careers in either politics or television (or both). Romney has done more for conservatism in this country in the last few years than any other candidate or faux candidate, save possibly Sarah Palin only. It's time to recognize that fact. If Mitt Romney wins the nomination, then it won't be because he bought it or had it given to him; he will have earned it.
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