Where Will He Point Now?

For quite some time, Mitt Romney’s strategy has been to attack his opponents through surrogates, media shills, and advertising, but with few exceptions, while he has made a case against his opponents, sometimes less than honestly, he has failed to make a case for his own candidacy.  Conservative voters are not herded by fear in most instances, and while you can occasionally turn them off from supporting a candidate if you can create enough of a negative buzz, what will not usually happen in such cases is to drive them into your own arms.  This tactic works well when it’s a two-candidate primary, particularly with a mind-numbed lefty electorate, but in a four-way race with conservative voters, what can happen is what we have seen in Colorado, Minnesota, and Missouri: Mitt Romney has so thoroughly bashed Gingrich that he succeeded only in driving voters in those states to somebody else.  Gingrich lost.  Romney lost.  Santorum won.

I think part of this grows out of Romney’s reliance on tactics that might have been valid in a more liberal state like the one he governed, where he could not gain victory without at least enticing some of a liberal mindset.  In Massachusetts, there are certainly Republicans, but the conservative wing of the party is small and mostly ineffective.  On a national scale, this is not true, and Romney will not be able to beat one conservative down without another rising in his place.  Romney’s strategy may still get him the nomination by slow, steady attrition, but that will not win the general election in November when he will need the entirety of the nation’s conservative base out pulling his wagon if he is to have any hope of overcoming Obama.  You cannot repeatedly offend conservatives and expect them to energize on your behalf, and this is what McCain had done over many years, and his best move was to nominate Sarah Palin, which was almost enough to overcome the ineptitude of his own campaign.

Mitt Romney is not likely to get such a bump from any of those he might choose to be his running mate.  He may be stuck on a flat-line of a grudging support from some conservatives, while a fair number simply turn away in disgust.  I think the latter has already begun, and the fact that in Colorado’s loss to Santorum, where in 2008, he won by a huge margin, what you’re seeing is the beginnings of the tell-tale signs of this collapse in his support.  His lack of a clear message and a positive campaign don’t remind people of Reagan, and it doesn’t set him much apart from liberals.  To many conservative voters, it appears as though Romney is simply playing the slash-and-burn politics of the left, and most conservatives don’t really want any part of that.

Mitt Romney started this campaign season with every advantage: High name recognition, good financing, well-oiled organization, and the happy support of the establishment wing of the GOP.  Now his name recognition no longer matters so much, and it’s clear that he can be beaten even when he spends overwhelming sums of money, and the establishment is not so happy this morning as they view what could be the reason to yank the rug from beneath Romney, and either try to buy influence with one of the others, or simply bring in a ringer.  Just looking at the tone on FoxNews last night and this morning, it’s like people at a funeral trying to convince themselves that it’s really a birthday party.

Romney’s arguments about electability and consistency seem now to fade, as the electorate realizes that all of this “inevitability” talk had been the fanciful expressions of one who had been a legend in his own mind.  Romney’s not invincible, and hasn’t been, but the GOP establishment wanted you to believe this so they could put their guy out front.  Now that Romney’s been taken down a few pegs, it remains to be seen whether he will continue his strategy of slash-and-burn against his opponents, or instead re-engineer his campaign to accentuate his positives.  If I were a betting man, I’d wager on the former, if only because there’s so damnably little of the latter.

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