Well, that was fun.
My ride this past election cycle was much like Erick Erickson's. And by "ride," I mean being strapped to the front of a locomotive that was heading into the side of a mountain.
From the beginning, Mitt wasn't the candidate I wanted representing our party. As a conservative, he didn't have a sterling record, being pro-choice and all before he became "severely" conservative. As a candidate, he was a weak tactical choice. During the Republican primaries, Newt Gingrich and others were hammering Romney on his time at Bain Capital. I wrote, sarcastically, "Right, because it'll be so much better to let Obama vet him on Bain!" Fellow conservatives thought this line of attack was akin to being an "anti-capitalist" traitor, giving Obama and his liberal minions ammunition.
Psst: guess what. They didn't need the ammunition. Obama defined Romney early, often, and before summer even rolled around, the perception had already sunk in that Romney was Mr. Moneybags who was out-of-touch and didn't relate to "people like me."
I even linked to this ad:
Rich? Business experience? Accused of shipping jobs overseas? Running in an election where... Republicans... couldn't... lose? Victory!
Well, guess what: history repeats itself.
And Senator Carly Fiorina was unavailable for comment.
Later in the election cycle, we started hearing about conservatives who loved Mitt Romney in 2008. Breaking: 2012 is not 2008. I wrote a piece explaining why someone who's a good fit in one election is not a good fit in another. Times change. Issues change. Hairstyles change.
But most of all, Obamacare happened. Nothing animated conservatives in our successful 2010 elections like Obamacare. So what do we do? We picked to run against Obama the only other guy in the entire country who implemented a government healthcare program. Genius!
With the luxury of hand-picking Obama's foe, we picked the one who couldn't wield Obama's kryptonite.
Don't get me wrong. Once the "inevitable" Mitt of the primaries became "presumptive nominee," I rallied hard for Romney against Barack Obama.
Then, like many, I witnessed that first presidential debate, and thought: you know, Mitt Romney just might pull this off. Right before the election, I relied on pieces that showed Romney was getting independents, and was witnessing enthusiasm, and winning in early voting. I was one who hoped for a landslide.
It was all fool's gold. Darn it, I was right all along. Romney wasn't the man for this election cycle. He was hamstrung by Romneycare. He was too much like Carly Fiorina and Meg Whitman. A good man, but just not the right man.
Going forward, there is the temptation to purge the party. Divide the party. Retool the party. But when you lose a squeaker, you don't start over. You adjust, you tinker, and you stay true to principles. Principles yes. Purging no.
We need a person who's steeped in conservative principles, and understands them. We need a communicator who can explain these principles in plain English, not someone who's just learning them as a second language. We need a happy warrior who has a cheerful demeanor, who won't scare voters once the other side paints him or her as a villain.
In my mind, this sounds like Marco Rubio. We'll see.
But what we don't need to do is nuke the whole damn thing and start over. Maybe we take a hard look at issues and notice that the country's take on gay marriage or immigration has changed from under us, and make a strategic decision to make a concession. Just to avoid being portrayed as alienating the electorate. But for the most part, we need to double down on conservatism, re-state what we stand for (pro-life being a non-negotiable centerpiece), and do it with uplifting language. Inform. Educate. Maybe tinker a little, but starting over? A third party? Not needed, people. Mitt Romney missed the White House by that much, and now is not the time to scratch the whole thing. Let's win the whole thing.
We can do this.