After a Midwestern Caucus and a Northeastern Primary, Mitt Romney is the clear frontrunner for the Republican presidential nomination. The strength and sheer size of his ground force and fundraising operations in upcoming Primary states is well-documented.
He is perhaps the ultimate presidential candidate in the eyes of Republican insiders. He has plenty of his own capital to spend on the campaign and Romney has strong connections within the Republican establishment, including endorsements from current Senators John McCain (AZ), Scott Brown (MS), Roy Blunt (MO), former RNC Chairman and Virginia Governor Jim Gilmore, along with current Governors Chris Christie (NJ), and Nikki Haley (SC). Romney is also considered a relative moderate in his positions.
In fact, Romney has far more endorsements from those within the Repubilcan Party than do the other candidates vying for the nomination.
“It's his to lose”, some might say when speaking of Romney and therein lies the problem. It's that idea which seems to be permeating among Republicans instead of an attitude, again of Romney, that “it's his to win”. It's as if Republican insiders are pulling for a candidate who won't lose the election due to his moderate positions and that thereby Obama will beat himself with his atrocious economic record and lack of leadership. In other words, the GOP is calling for, in football terms, a Prevent Defense in order to win the Super Bowl of politics, the 2012 Presidential Election.
Ask yourself where the excitement is among non-establishment Republicans for the Romney campaign, an idea recently put forward by Rush Limbaugh on his radio show. The extent of the excitement over Romney seems to be that he is not Obama. The excitement is not over the candidate himself but who he is not. Sound familiar?
It appears similar to 2004 when the Left seethed in hatred towards President George W. Bush and he seemed vulnerable to follow in his father's shoes and become a one-term President. The Democratic Party served up a rather dull Northeastern Democrat, Senator John Kerry, and to the shock of Democrats who thought Bush was incompetent and a failure in the White House, Bush escaped defeat and won a second term. Perhaps a more passionate and inspiring candidate would have defeated Bush. We'll never know.
Who does Romney inspire? Santorum is able to fire up the social conservatives who dream that next year's 40th anniversary of Roe V. Wade will be the last such anniversary. Ron Paul excites those who are frustrated with the bloated federal government as well as the libertarians among the GOP. Even Newt Gingrich manages to ignite some passion with his tough and pointed jabs. The excitement, fervor, and enthusiasm on the Republican side seems to exist not in the frontrunner, but in the other aspiring candidates. That hardly seems like a recipe for success.
Furthermore, arguably the one issue that has ignited the most fervor among Republicans during Obama's presidency, ObamaCare, is one in which Mitt Romney will have a difficult time fighting, as his healthcare plan in Massachusetts was eerily similar to that proposed by Obama, Pelosi, and Reid.
The concern for Republicans should be similar to those of us who are football fans when we see our favorite team turn to a Prevent Defense in order to close out a game in which they have a slight lead. Many times we see the opposing team accept the short gains given to them and suddenly they are at the cusp of the end zone and by that time it's too late and our favorite team has snatched defeat from the jaws of victory. As fans, we then look out onto the field in shock and dismay, perplexed and wondering how our team managed to lose when victory seemed inevitable.
With only ten months until the election, Republicans rightly see Obama as a vulnerable candidate. His favorability rating currently stands at 46% and the unemployment rate, though it has decreased lately, still remains historically high. While Obama is a weak candidate, he is the incumbent and victory for the Republican Party is far from certain.
Should Obama square off against Romney in a general election, certainly Obama lacks any big-gaining offensive plays (meaning policy successes in political terms). But by employing a class warfare strategy, placing Romney as the face of the 1% and Obama as the Defender of the poor and middle class, Obama may be able to slowly make his way down the Electoral College field. Then top operatives in the Republican Party will watch with dismay and shock when an election that was theirs to win instead results in a disappointing and unnecessary defeat.
Chad Stafko is a writer and political consultant living in the Midwest. He can be reached at [email protected]