Well, it sure is coming down to the wire. The New Hampshire primary is January 10, moved up from its usual date in early February. Mitt Romney has been Mr. Steady for the Republican nomination but now is contending with a surging Newt Gingrich.
In 2008, Romney was considered a bit of an outlier and was disliked by his fellow Republicans. Giuliani was the early favorite. Romney was called names but he persisted but lost to McCain anyway.
Now going into 2012, Romney seemed to be the favorite. Others have challenged, but Mitt always has come out on top because he did the Reagan thing – he ran once, lost the nomination, got the bugs out, and now is running a second time.
Romney has certainly refined his approach and his image since 2008. He looks sharp and presidential, speaks well, never stumbles in debates and has the business experience that Americans admire. He seems to be supported by Establishment Republicans and independents, but he also is making strong appeals to conservatives. His interviews are hard-hitting and direct. Sometimes he sounds like Reagan.
Romney’s past, however, is troubling to many of us on the Tea Party side.
And now we have Newt, who has a lifetime 90% approval rating from the American Conservative Union, the gold standard for us right wingers. That’s pretty good stuff. No wonder he is surging.
But let’s face it Newt has more baggage than any Republican since Nixon. Many younger people do not even know who he is. His own party voted him out of the House speakership in 1998. He is in his third marriage. (In the first he married his high-school math teacher!) He is often abrasive and speaks very bluntly and has so many ideas that he often sounds more like a one-man think tank than a presidential candidate.
Newt is the caricature of the Republican party – an older, unattractive, fatter white guy who favors a competitive capitalist economy and that weird thing called “the Constitution”. He does not have much love for people who are not traditional Republicans like minorities or the ‘occupy’ protesters. “Take a bath…” he told the ‘occupiers’.
Yet this is the kind of frank language that resonates with conservatives. It is what we say in private every day. And to have a presidential candidate saying such things is very tempting. Go Newt!
Romney, on the other hand, is remarkably uncontroversial. He is a very controlled politician who is seeking to get to the White House by generally playing defense, hoping to simply capitalize on Obama’s terrible record.
You would never catch Romney telling the occupiers to take a bath or saying what Gingrich said recently and correctly: “Really poor children, in really poor neighborhoods have no habits of working and have nobody around them who works so they have no habit of showing up (to work). They have no habit of staying all day (at work), they have no habit of ‘I do this and you give me cash’ unless it is illegal.”
Newt is obviously talking about blacks and liberals are up in arms about this comment. Yet a majority of Americans privately agrees with Newt – including many liberals - and a supermajority of hard-working white Americans definitely agrees. Because Newt speaks common sense of the unpolitically-correct kind.
And considering Gingrich’s role in welfare reform in the 1990s his tough language is no surprise.
So we have a choice – Newt vs Mitt. Blunt spoken versus subtle. Tough talking versus diplomatic.
Of course whoever is chosen, he will be savaged by the Media Left. You ain’t seen nothin’ yet. Because Obama is in trouble and everyone knows that he has a scorched-earth policy to fall back on.
Obama’s media friends know that Newt could mop the floor with Obama in a debate or in the rhetorical back-and-forth of the election season. So could Romney. And so either would be a good candidate. Either could thump Obama on his record.
If you remember, McCain was terrified of offending Obama and thus he lost the election. Romney, on the other hand, was being studiously bold when he recently said that Obama is making America into another debt-laden nation like Greece. This is another simple truth that most Americans can take to the voting booth.
Unfortunately the Democrats have another way for Obama to get to victory. So-called “frustrated” political operatives who are “fed up” with the two-party system are probably going to put up a third-party candidate to siphon votes away from the Republican and give the election to Obama. You just watch. This is Obama’s final ace in the hole.
Some of these people in a group called Americans Elect say they are thinking about putting up an alternative to “both parties”. But the Democrats are famous for using this tactic to win by taking mostly GOP votes. Recently they used it in the 2010 governor’s race in Massachusetts to help incumbent Democrat Deval Patrick; in a 2011 special House election in Western New York state; and it developed that way on the national level in 1992 when Ross Perot – who hated the Bush family – drained off enough votes from Papa Bush’s re-election bid to put Bill Clinton in the White House.
Sometimes, however, it works against the Dems but only when the strategy gets away from them. Left-wing Ralph Nader took enough votes away from Al Gore in Florida in 2000 to give Florida – and the election – to George W. Bush.
But these third partiers have New York City mayor Michael Bloomberg as a possible nominee. And Bloomie is no centrist. He really is a multi-billionaire leftist who hates Republicans and conservatives and supports Obama. He is the one who casually blamed Tea Partiers as possibly being the ones who planted the failed Times Square car bomb of May 1, 2010. It turned out to have been an Islamist.
Bloomberg easily could throw the election to Obama without even doing the heavy lifting of a nationwide operation: He could campaign lightly in just five or six crucial electoral states, dump $100 million of his $11 billion fortune into advertising in those states like Ohio, Michigan, Pennsylvania, Wisconsin and New Mexico and, with minimum effort, could easily siphon off enough Republican votes to tip those states, and the general election, to Obama.
No matter who the Republican nominee is, this is very possibly going to be a huge problem. Because the third-partiers are going to tailor a candidate to whomever the GOP puts up. If it is Newt, they will portray him as a rabid, racist right winger who makes flip comments about poor people. If it is Romney they will call him a Wall Street shill and a heartless businessman.
How can Newt or Romney win?
They can do what Reagan did: They can go around the media and go straight to the people. This will be crucial. And they both seem willing to do it and prepared to do it. And they will warn against a third-party candidate (i.e., “a vote for Bloomberg is a vote for Obama…”) Neither will cower before Obama as McCain did. There is too much at stake.
Newt can win with his blunt language and Romney can talk in his calm demeanor about economics. Because America is not up for political correctness. Americans want answers.
Romney really wants to be president to avenge the presidential primary loss of his father, Republican Michigan governor George Romney, in 1968. And he can be very tough. In some interviews, he has savaged Obama ruthlessly but without getting nasty. And in a general election that he wants to win, he will be ferocious but in a very restrained Mormon-like manner. There will be no McCaining this time around.
So Romney now sees two adversaries on the horizon: A tough-talking Gingrich who appeals to the conservative base that usually decides primaries, and a potential third-party challenge set up by the Democrats.
But then again third-party candidate John Anderson never derailed Ronald Reagan in 1980 because Democrat Jimmy Carter was in such disrepute as Obama is today. Reagan thumped Carter, winning 44 states.
The Republican candidate is not going to win 44 states this time. The map has changed. But he needs crucial states like Michigan, Ohio, Florida, Wisconsin, New Mexico and Pennsylvania, all of which Obama won in 2008.
A smart strategy can win those states because they all are trending away from Obama. It now is up to Gingrich or Romney to play his cards the right way and take those states to the White House. And pray that Bloomberg does not use his massive fortune to tip the election to Obama.
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