The Humble Libertarian

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Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Romney and Santorum: Two Bridges to Nowhere

By: Carl Wicklander

It’s been a bumpy ride for Mitt Romney since winning Florida on January 31.

Colorado, Minnesota, and Missouri all held non-binding votes a week later and Rick Santorum prevailed in all three. His victories seem to have changed the tenor for the race. With this second “surge,” might Santorum derail Romney’s inevitability? Never before did winning zero delegates seem to have meant so much.

While he didn’t win any delegates, his February 7 trifecta keeps Santorum relevant. With a week still separating us from the next primary contests on February 28 in Arizona and Michigan, front-runner Romney may be facing an electoral catastrophe in the Wolverine State.

Born in Michigan, where father George Romney was an auto executive and popular governor, Mitt Romney won the state of his birth by 9 points over John McCain in 2008. Michigan should be an easy win for Romney, who needs one and whose only win in the meantime is under a cloud of suspicion.

But recent polls indicate that Santorum has a fair shot to pull the upset. While Santorum patron Foster Friess is causing stirs over comments on contraception, he is writing million dollar checks to Santorum’s PAC, keeping the campaign alive and it might (no pun intended) pay off.

Just how humiliating will it be for a native son to lose his home state to someone who lost his last election by the widest margin of any incumbent senator?

The knock on Romney’s electability is that he doesn’t win states unless he has a personal connection there or the state has a large Mormon population. A Santorum victory in Michigan would be a clear repudiation. It might also strike a mortal blow for the Republicans’ chances to capture the White House in the fall. If the front-runner is so flawed and offends the base so much that they are willing to back a more provincial and perhaps even more flawed alternative, the party stands to suffer an historic loss in November.

The Republican 2012 race has been an unqualified mess. The convenient explanation to this point has been that the Republicans have arranged themselves into a circular firing squad and taken aim at each other. No doubt they will take solace in this explanation when they lose in November, convincing themselves that they spent too much time battling each other instead of President Obama. But this rationale only serves the purpose of passing blame when the inevitable occurs.

It’s no secret that conservatives are going to be the big losers of the 2012 presidential election regardless who wins. Romney, Santorum, and for the time being, Gingrich all have significant big government baggage that should be off-putting to the base but the 2012 Republican primary has been an exercise of collective amnesia. Republicans are reminded of each candidates’ sins but they are forgotten by the time the next candidate’s ad airs.

The race for the Republican nomination is still Romney’s to lose. He has superior organization and money and when Super Tuesday comes and ten states are voting it should bear fruit. Santorum has performed better than I thought he would post-Iowa, but much of that has to do with his good fortune of being the last Romney alternative. Because of that and his limited experience as a national candidate he is bound to stumble. Santorum, who fancies himself an expert on Iran because he speaks alarmingly, referring to the Islamic Republic numerous times as the “equivalent of al Qaeda,” has the dubious distinction of making Romney look reasonable by comparison. This is where he is likely to fall.

But woe is the day, especially for conservatives, when Romney sews up the nomination. Can anyone truly fathom the utter contempt Romney must have for conservatives?

Even in the best of circumstances conservatives should have expected little from Romney. But considering the fact that conservatives were among Romney’s most vocal backers in 2008 he must have thought he could count on a sizable portion of them to support him in 2012.

But conservatives are the ones who have fought tooth and nail to avoid a Romney nomination supporting the likes of Herman Cain, Newt Gingrich, and Rick Santorum to do so. If Romney gets this nomination he will do it without much assistance from the Right. Does any thinking adult believe he will give conservatives anything besides seething contempt?

How shall the conservatives extricate themselves from such a mess of their own making?





Carl Wicklander,
Regular Columnist, THL
Articles Author's Page Website