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The Troubles with Mitt

February 21, 2012

Mitt Romney is in trouble again…. This time it’s Michigan. If serious questions were not already being whispered about his ability to secure the GOP nomination the failure to carry his home state will turn whispers into shouts of discontent. Romney grew up in Michigan, his father was Governor (!), and should be winning the race in the state by a landslide margin He has picked up some ground in the last couple of days but a loss by one point is still a loss and to lose this state is going to be costly. At the time of writing, Romney looks to be pulling back level.

Comments that he would have let the car industry go bankrupt are not helping. The comments were made in op-ed piece after Obama came to office and were a criticism of the way the new President was handling the economic crisis. Only in the last month GM reclaimed the top spot as the world’s largest car manufacturer with record $9 billion profits.

As predicted on this blog in the past, GOP voters are looking for any excuse not to back Romney. Now that Rick Santorum has had time to present himself to the wider public they are liking what they see. He is clean cut, articulate and stands for everything that Romney doesn’t, which is a major plus point as far as the GOP electorate are concerned. He presents a palatable face to fairly extreme right wing politics and he is speaking to the base in a way that Romney hasn’t and probably can’t.

Crucially, Santorum is now also starting to win states. His strategy of not campaigning in Florida has paid off in a major way; Gingrich is a busted flush after falling from favour in a spectacular way in the sunshine state (he is polling in fourth place in Michigan) and he has having trouble in his home state of Georgia. With Gingrich increasingly marginalised it is surely only a matter of time before he bows out of the race, although he is stubborn enough to fight on, surely a defeat in Georgia on Super Tuesday will mean the end?

Michigan (and the other states that poll on the same day – all of which show Santorum with a healthy lead) could finally be D-Day for Mitt. A report on ABC quoted an unnamed Republican senator that if Romney failed to win Michigan that a new candidate must enter the race. His solution? Jeb Bush. Former Governor of Florida and of course brother of G.W.

How this would be better for the general election hopes I can’t fathom. Surely the American public aren’t ready to elect another Bush to the presidency? And surely not so soon after the last Bush oversaw the current financial and unemployment crisis. But then again they did re-elect him in 2004 as the fiasco and entrenchment in Iraq was reaching its zenith. Cues at the polling station which were originally speculated to be for John Kerry and a protest against Iraq, all of them turned out to be Bush voters and saw him return by a landslide margin.

I have taken a few positions on VP candidates based on Romney winning the nomination which I will be looking at and preparing to move on should Romney indeed lose in Michigan. I think most of the selections that I made are still in the picture but if a staunch conservative does get the nomination then some new names may start to come forward – someone who appeals to moderates is going to be crucial as is the Latino and black vote. Santorum is losing to Romney with women voters which will be another sector crucial general election. Obama does well with voters in all these sectors so a Republican VP is going to have to bring something to the table that makes up for the Santorum’s (and likely other conservative nominees) deficit in this area.

Romney still has to be the most electable in a general election of all the Republican candidates, both those in the race and those who are still looking on from the side-lines. Santorum’s hard right politics, despite his clean cut image will alien moderates and the election cant be won in the south alone. I wonder then if we might see a return to the selection of a VP candidate based upon whether they can carry their own state? The trend has been to pick a VP on the basis of what the top of the ticket is perceived to be lacking – Biden brought the youthful Obama foreign policy credibility. The strategy of picking VP to carry a major swing state has not really been proven to consistently work though. It does start to make Marco Rubio look more and more attractive as a VP pick – but he is young, inexperienced and he has consistently ruled himself out. The odds remain very short on him though and there is probably little value in taking a punt.

With Romney looking more and more prone to failing in his bid for the nomination other possibilities are fast emerging. But this race has been volatile in the extreme and every time a “D-Day” for Romney has approached he has done enough to keep himself in the race and rebounded well.

All this is playing into Obama’s hands though and the winning electoral college vote might be much higher than the polls are currently suggesting.


From → Politics

One Comment
  1. Good analysis. Considering the wonderfully bizarre race for the Republican nomination that we have had so far, Mitt’s perfomance has been absolutely woeful. Despite a far more streamlined and professional campaign approach than the 2008 race, and the huge amounts of money backing both his campaign directly and the Super PACs which are doing a lot of the key work for him, he has been scoring lower in some states than he did last time round. The right of the GOP really don’t want him but, tellingly, they don’t really have any idea of who they want as no-one can match up to their demands for ideological purity. Santorum is trending well now but offers little chance of a realistic national challenge to Obama – he is no Bush who in his first campaign had folksy charm and in his re-election had the support of his key base.

    Jeb Bush would be a very popular candidate – he did a good job in Florida – but I think it will be next time round (if Obama wins) before we see him take the plunge. For a party who tend to believe that the White House is their property occasionally loaned to the Democrats, their campaign has been a wonderful gift to an unpopular and struggling President. Obama’s swagger is starting to creep back (helped and evidenced in his now constant singing) as the GOP challenge swings off the rails and will make him a far tougher proposition for the general election.

    VP pick will be a big one for the Republicans, but given the likelihood that they will have picked either Romney or Santorum (barring a last ditch upheaval, which is still a possibility) I don’t think the VP pick will change the dynamic much. Romney will probably have to go for a more conservative VP (a la McCain 08) and lose some centrist appeal; Santorum’s choice would be more tactical but wouldn’t take away from his right wing stance.

    Brutal times ahead I think, the recriminations if Obama wins could be horrific within the GOP.

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