Mitt Romney and the anticlimactic inevitability of the Republican nominee
Like a homecoming queen desperately trying to find a suitable date to the prom, the Republican Party continues to stumble from one candidate to another, in the hopes of finding an alternative to the seemingly preordained choice of Mitt Romney. The success of Rick Santorum in the Iowa Caucus is merely the latest attempt to avoid the GOP’s current golden boy; with the exception of Ron Paul and Jon Huntsman, the possibilities have been more or less exhausted.
Before the campaigning got serious, many conservatives seriously considered Sarah Palin as a viable candidate – a line of thinking that was summarily squashed by the Republican establishment and (i.e.) Fox News. Rick Perry launched his candidacy following a stadium prayer rally for a “nation in crisis” and presented himself as the Christian cowboy American wishes it had with George W. Bush. Almost immediately, Michele Bachmann, the then Tea Party favorite, attacked Governor Perry for having signed legislation mandating that children in Texas be vaccinated against the human papillomavirus (HPV). Bachmann went on to suggest that the vaccine leads to mental retardation and effectively ended her campaign in mainstream America. Within weeks, the party began to feel uncomfortable with Perry’s compassion for the children of undocumented immigrants, and his inability to remember more than two things at a time.
Herman Cain was the next to storm the polls and vanished almost just as quickly, surrounded by several allegations of sexual misconduct, depriving the country of its most prominent token black presidential candidate to date (and more of the funniest/creepiest campaign ads in a long time). Not long afterwards, Newt Gingrich, no stranger to sexual misconduct himself, was elevated to front-runner status as the self-proclaimed intellectual of the Republican Party. In spite of doing all the right things – complaining about black people on welfare and shedding a few tears on the trail – Gingrich’s star began to fade. Perhaps voters knew deep down that they were merely flirting with Newt in the same way they were with Palin, Bachmann, Perry, and Cain before.
Most recently, Rick Santorum, of Santorum fame, walked away as the surprise winner of the Iowa Caucus, even though he came in second. By nearly tying Mitt Romney, voters are stating clearly that they are willing to consider all options in premature unrepresentative non-binding antiquated electoral events.
With a string of high profile endorsements, including those of Senator John McCain, former president George H. W. Bush and New Jersey Governor Chris Christie, Mitt Romney is increasingly looking like the establishment’s choice. Santorum offers a last gasp for those values voters concerned about abortion and the lifestyles of homosexuals – something the establishment fears because they know they are on the wrong side of history. Although Romney claims to be a true conservative, his track record as Governor of Massachusetts indicates that he is certainly capable of successfully serving a traditionally liberal constituency – something that virtually every other Republican candidate views as treason.
If and when Romney secures the nomination, expect to see a shift towards the political center as he attempts to soften much of the conservative credibility he has so fervently worked to build up during the primaries. The most common complaint from voters and his opponents, that Romney is an opportunistic flip-flopper, will be put to the test in the general election when confronted with an increasingly assertive incumbent President.
With each successive primary, Republican voters will be forced to choose. After exhausting nearly every alternative (barring Paul and Huntsman), it looks as though the Party is beginning to admit that it must settle. Deep down, we all knew the homecoming queen would feel obliged to pick the rich, handsome quarterback.