Searching for the Non-Romney

It’s going pretty much according to plan for Mitt Romney.  He has the anti-Romney vote split up in several directions, and rolling into New Hampshire, he looks poised to get at least 40% of the Granite State’s support.  Meanwhile, the anti-Romneys, now composed of Gingrich, Huntsman, Paul, Perry and Santorum are battling amongst themselves for the remainder in a way that makes it virtually certain none will eclipse Romney.  Rather than realizing that for any of them to prevail, Romney must come down, they continue to clobber one another.  Strategically, this is dumb, but the truth is that it’s only dumb if you’re not Romney, who is certainly content to watch the others do battle.  While it might make Romney’s victory as inevitable as the media has told you it would be, it does nothing to serve the interests of conservative voters.  As their preferred candidates squabble amongst themselves, conservatives are watching the nomination process slip away, and what they will be left with is an insufferable milquetoast candidate who will not easily beat Obama.

There’s a lesson in this for conservative voters, and it has to do with the manner in which they choose their candidates.  Conservatives tell us they don’t want the media picking their candidate, but the truth is that they have been led from one to the next and eventually to the next of the anti-Romneys precisely by media.  It started with Bachmann, who was up because the media told you she was, and she was shortly bypassed by Perry, because the media told you so.  He soon fell even before his debate gaffe, to be replaced by Cain, because the media told you so.  Cain was hammered relentlessly, so you waved goodbye to the Hermanator because the media told you so.  From there, you went on to Gingrich, and I knew as soon as his numbers hit the mid-twenties that Rick Santorum would be fetched out as his replacement.  Santorum’s day in the sun is already waning, as the media begins to pick him apart. Will Huntsman be the next hot thing, with a boost from New Hampshire, or are we so late in the process that he no longer really matters?

Folks, this is and has been intentional.  You might offer that I’m proposing a conspiracy, but I insist that none of these candidates need be involved.  As I have detailed elsewhere, there’s no need for anything conspiratorial among the candidates, as only Romney needs the inside track with media to make this work.  I think it’s pretty clear he has it, as many of you who tune in to Fox News are already aware.  Carl Cameron, while following the Romney campaign as a result of his job assignment, has a very cozy relationship with the Romney camp.  He’s given access and they’re given positive press.  This permits Romney to set the campaign messaging, and while you suppose you’re getting something like objective reporting, what you’re really getting is warmed-over schlock that has been massaged into shape by the Romney public relations sculptors, or Romney himself.

It’s all very slick.  It all has the effect of causing the non-Romney-inclined electorate to follow dutifully along to whomever the media tells them is up, and to abandon whomever the media tells them is down.  In Iowa, independent expenditures on behalf of Romney soared, most of it going to deflate Gingrich, while the “buzz” was about Santorum.  This process will be repeated as often as needed to keep conservatives divided as to which of these candidates really should challenge Mitt Romney.  If Perry and Santorum stood aside, Gingrich would leap back to the head of the class.  If Gingrich and Perry stood aside, Santorum would leap to the top of the pile.  I’m not sure that Perry could vault to the top if Gingrich and Santorum stood aside, but if he did, he’ would at least have the money to do something with the opportunity.  (This is not a suggestion to readers to join Perry’s bandwagon, but merely an expression of fact: Among these three, he has the biggest war chest.)

Rather than castigate ourselves for how we’ve been manipulated, I’d rather find a solution, but while the problem is obvious, the solution isn’t so easily discerned.  If we want an actual conservative, we’ll either need to unite around one of the non-Romneys in a hurry, or find somebody else altogether, but the latter alternative would need to happen even more quickly, and I don’t see any of this happening as it now stands.  This entire primary season is turning into a route for conservatives, but the problem is that we’ve been led into this by virtue of our own anxieties.  We denounce the media’s impact on our nomination process, and yet it is to the media we have turned for ready answers because we have become obsessed with the media’s approval and judgments.  This trend must stop in future primaries, but that does little to help us grapple with our current situation.

I’ve passed the point of frustration, and I know many of my readers are likewise discouraged.  I’m looking for the solution to cure all of this, but it doesn’t seem possible that we will overcome this at such a late date.  Can Romney be stopped?  I have my doubts, but I know with certainty that he should be prevented from gaining the nomination because he is so thoroughly un-conservative.  That said, as this goes to press, news has come along that may hint at a direction.  Todd Palin has endorsed Newt Gingrich.  Tammy Bruce commented during her show that she felt this might indicate a familial preference, but in any case, what we should recognize in all of this is that we must coalesce around one non-Romney candidate, or be stuck with the inferior result.  I understand quite well those who look at Gingrich and see him as at least better than Romney, and at least a genuinely thoughtful politician, even if we don’t always adore his ideas. I would suppose that many conservatives would approve of that, while still others have a bone or two to pick with Gingrich. On balance, I view him as far more acceptable than Mitt Romney, and  by the time this process winds down to the Texas primary, I may indeed wind up supporting Newt.  I’ve told you for a long time that I’m an ABR guy, meaning “Anybody But Romney,” and as events have transpired, I’ve only solidified in that position.