Romney GOP Default Candidate?
Some analysts think Mitt Romney could back into the Republican nomination, reports CSM’s Linda Feldmann.
The latest polling out of states with the earliest nominating contests, which begin in a year, shows Mr. Romney in single digits. Even in neighboring New Hampshire, he comes in fourth, behind Sen. John McCain of Arizona, who won the New Hampshire primary in 2000, former New York Mayor Rudolph Giuliani, and former House Speaker Newt Gingrich.
But in a week that saw Romney launch his presidential exploratory committee, allowing him to enter the all-important money race, the Republican field is fluid. Religious conservatives, a key GOP constituency, remain skeptical of Senator McCain. And his advocacy for a stepped-up US presence in Iraq has thrown his political future squarely in line with a war that few believe is going well.
Mr. Giuliani, well known for his 9/11 leadership, remains untested on the national political stage and holds liberal positions on social issues that put him at odds with many GOP primary voters (as well as a colorful personal life).
Speaker Gingrich has, for now, become a repository of support among conservatives, though his short tenure as speaker and his three marriages could cause him to wilt under the klieg lights.
Enter Romney: successful businessman, savior of the 2002 Salt Lake City Olympics, with an attractive family. Having won the governorship of liberal Massachusetts as a moderate Republican in 2002, he then sought to remake his national image by adopting conservative positions on abortion, gay rights, and stem cells. But many Republicans remain leery. And among Evangelical conservatives, Romney’s Mormon faith can also be a hurdle.
Still, in the end, political analysts can see a clear path by which Romney becomes the GOP nominee, almost by default. Republicans “want to win in November ,” says Ed Sarpolus, an independent pollster in Michigan who dismisses Gingrich’s and Giuliani’s chances. “If McCain self-destructs because of Iraq, even in New Hampshire they’ll hold their nose and vote for Mitt Romney.”
While Giuliani is my favorite, all of four face serious obstacles to the nomination.
I continue to think Gingrich the least plausible of the major candidates, despite being the most energizing speaker and innovative thinker in the field. While a sleazy background is not insurmountable–Bill Clinton got elected twice, after all–it is incredibly problematic among a primary electorate dominated by Christian conservatives.
McCain and Giuliani are rock stars but their conservative bona fides are in doubt. McCain has the additional problem of being too old; he’d almost certainly be a one termer. Giuliani’s divorces are a problem, although not as much as they would have been in the past. Romney’s Mormonism, as I’ve noted previously, is highly problematic.
Ultimately, I think 9/11 inoculates Giuliani from many of his problems with the base. To some degree, everything that happened before has been cleansed by the perception that he was a heroic leader in the aftermath. Being tough on crime and terrorism may well be enough to get him past the questions on the social issues, especially since it’s pretty obvious Roe won’t be overturned and the tide is turning on such hot button issues as gay rights.