With one caucus and one primary completed, there is a stampede of media analysts and Republican operatives rushing to proclaim Mitt Romney as the de-facto Republican nominee. Despite the fact that only a fraction of the delegates have been chosen and voters in 48 states have yet to cast a vote, there is a definite push to call this political ballgame early.
Why the rush to coronate a nominee? A prolonged primary battle would not harm Romney or whoever wins the nomination; it will only make the GOP nominee stronger. A hard-fought Democratic Party campaign against Hillary Clinton in 2008 certainly helped Barack Obama become a better candidate.
In contrast, Republicans have not seen a vigorous nomination contest since the epic 1976 race between Gerald Ford and Ronald Reagan. Unfortunately, the GOP favors establishment candidates who have previously lost and are running for the second or third time. Republicans like to clear the field for the candidate that insiders believe has earned a spot at the top of the ticket. This flawed strategy has given the party two nominees who were major losers: Bob Dole and John McCain.
Thus, we enter the 2012 contest with a front runner, Mitt Romney, who lost in 2008 and never stopped running for President. With a massive war chest and a plethora of party leaders pushing for his nomination, the Massachusetts flip-flopper has plenty of momentum. Media analysts and commentators are already claiming that the race is over and the country will be subjected to a Romney versus Obama race this fall.
At this point, it is way too early to end this primary contest. Voters in the South clearly think differently on most issues than the more liberal electorate in Iowa and New Hampshire. Usually, a moderate candidate like Romney would not do well in a conservative state like South Carolina; however, voters will be influenced by media coverage painting Romney as the eventual winner. Voters like to side with a winner and not “waste” their vote. Romney will also have a huge financial advantage and a Super PAC ready to spend $7 million touting his candidacy.
As we enter South Carolina, the moderates are united behind Romney and the conservatives are split among the other candidates. The Tea Party does not have a unified voice, so there is division among the right leaning candidates. The longer this continues, the better the result for Romney. To improve their chances of defeating Romney, the conservatives should unite behind one candidate. Gingrich, Santorum and Perry need to meet and decide which candidate is the strongest one to move forward.
If Romney is the nominee, Democrats will be delighted. They know that Romney is the weakest candidate they can face in the general election, regardless of the media spin. In fact, Democratic operative Donna Brazile admitted this secret on ABC after the network’s Republican debate last Saturday night.
If Romney is the nominee, Republicans will not be able to challenge Obama on the issue of socialized medicine. Romney’s Massachusetts plan was the inspiration for the Obama healthcare disaster. Two of Romney’s advisers helped Obama craft his plan.
Under Romney, taxes increased by $730 million in Massachusetts, so he will not be able to make the anti-tax argument. While Romney was Governor, Massachusetts suffered from anemic economic growth, the fourth lowest in the country. Romney supported liberal judges and cabinet appointments. He espoused liberal positions on major issues and was a self proclaimed “progressive” who did not want to “return to Reagan Bush.” These liberal positions, the flip flopping, and the controversy over his tenure at Bain Capital make Romney an inviting target for Obama and the Democrats.
The Republican electorate in this country needs to spend much more time contemplating whether they are ready to nominate a candidate as liberal as Romney. Although he is sounding conservative themes today, his record is spotty at best. His conversion is one of convenience not of principle.
Romney needs to be completely vetted and more Republicans need a chance to express their opinion. The nomination process should not be dominated by just a few states that do not represent the mainstream of the Republican Party. If the process is shortcut by media pressure or big money, the vast majority of GOP voters across this country will be disenfranchised.
Just one year ago, the Tea Party was celebrating a major victory in the mid-term elections. Today, Mitt Romney is getting ready for his coronation, even though he does not represent the Tea Party or the conservative Reagan wing of the Republican Party.
In the interest of the conservative movement, the remaining conservative candidates need to unite and set aside their personal interests.
There needs to be consolidation on the right to give Romney a run for the money. Otherwise the drumbeat that it “is over” will continue and the Romney nomination will become a conservative nightmare turned reality.