No one was more infuriated than I was when Republican National Committee Finance co-chair Georgette Mosbacher and her political peers anointed former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney as the Republican nominee in October, 2011. It didn’t help that states like Florida were bumping primaries ahead in decisions made by party power brokers on the state level. The earlier primary lobbed advantages to Romney—all of us Republicans know that.
There was predictable backlash, especially from those of us who initially supported Texas Gov. Rick Perry. No governor has a better record, but the disrespect Perry encountered, in part from his own party, was undeniable.
In retrospect, I've come to realize that trust is a definite factor when it comes to Romney. I also came to realize Mosbacher's lack of self-control helped construct distrust for the candidate she endorsed with nary a concern about the ethical conflict in a GOP official endorsing one person when there was an abundance of hopefuls.
As the primaries and caucuses commenced, the people Romney hired to run his campaign dealt the other GOP candidates the same negative blows dealt to now-Sen. Marco Rubio when he took on former anointed candidate Charlie Crist in the run for the US Senate. Negative campaigns are a given, but negative campaigns that fabricate information—well, normally we see that on the Left, not the Right.
I was also concerned about destruction to the party brand. If you assail a former speaker who made US history, you assail the party. Newt Gingrich’s contributions were indisputable as was his personal history. It wasn’t necessary for Romney supporters to apply smear tactics to compete with him, at least it wasn’t necessary for a candidate with viable, sellable strengths.
Many of us felt that the Republican senior hierarchy had simply dismissed the conservative base that inarguably returned the US House to GOP control. The GOP appeared to be taking the conservative vote for granted in a manner that Democrats are taking the black vote for granted. Dems are opting to go after what the Left calls the ‘Hispanic’ vote, a myth if ever there was one.
Many of us supported Romney in 2008. I actually met and talked with one of his sons who visited Jacksonville. At that time, Romney seemed a far stronger candidate than Sen. John McCain (Ariz.) and of course he was because we lost that year.
Republicans have a tendency to pre-select candidates who cannot win a General Election—Bob Dole and Gerald Ford come to mind. It strikes me my party has a statist mindset sometimes when it comes to candidates in general (channel Crist).
As Super Tuesday draws near, the Republican nominees are entering what is probably the final stretch to determine the dominant candidate. There remains, however, a significant mistrust of the governor among conservatives of all ilk and that mistrust is not unwarranted.
Romney’s policies on healthcare, environmental regulations and government fees are a natural cause for concern.
Romney did well with budgets, but he also liked the imposition of fees in lieu of tax revenue. Fiscal conservatives view a fee for what it is—a backdoor tax.
Would Romney as president undertake true government reform, or would he simply approach the budget as a balance sheet in need of a trim and reshuffle?
All those matters are legitimate grounds for concern from those of us who are expected to support the GOP nominee. If they’re not addressed—if the governor does not make his case for trust—turnout will be diluted.
Whatever the platforms for either candidate, 2012 will be as much a test of turnout as ideology. A well-informed voter should be fearful at the expansion of central power under the Obama administration. The only way to get that across is for someone to talk about it, and Romney hasn’t done much of that.
Romney does, however, have assets that make him far more qualified than Obama when it comes to running the country. His position on China’s encroachment on intellectual property rights and the theft of corporate properties is commendable.
Romney is also eminently qualified to deal with currency markets and the position of the U.S. in a world more complicated than most of us could envision even a decade ago.
Romney’s experience through his church—living and ministering abroad—will be an asset in foreign policy. Obama has effectively unglued the Middle East, and that inheritance will be treacherous and challenging for any successor.
Romney’s budget expertise and his ability to create private wealth and jobs are additional assets.
What is at stake for Romney when it comes to conservatives—especially fiscal conservatives—is trust. We’ve been burned by compassionate conservatism and the large price tag it carried.
We’ve been burned by candidates we had to support despite the fact enthusiasm was lacking. We’ve been burned by our own party’s dismissal of our preferences despite all the support we have delivered over the years.
Another matter that would reassure conservatives relates to limitations on federal powers. Romney should talk about this and offer ideas about his position. Few conservatives would disagree that central powers must be brought into line with the boundaries set forth in the US Constitution and Amendments.
Trust is Romney’s challenge if he is to be not just the nominee, but the winner in the General Election in 2012. Like it or not, he needs that conservative base, not just for our votes, but in order to fire up others to get out and vote. The sooner he and his aggressive campaign strategists realize that, the better off the Republican Party will be.
Finally, Mosbacher and her fellows should learn to keep their mouths shut. She singlehandedly cost Romney a great deal of support early on simply by being unable to resist flaunting her own power. Arrogance is not attractive in anyone.
(Analysis by Kay B. Day/Feb. 29, 2012)