“They wanted a quick win, but they’re getting World War I here. They’re getting trench warfare that may go on and on… I feel a little sorry for them… Next thing you know you’re watching the TV with a bottle of whisky and a revolver, you know, wondering if you’re gonna make it through the night,” said Mike Murphy, Republican strategist and columnist for Time Magazine on a recent episode of Charlie Rose.
The above quote exemplifies the Mitt Romney conundrum. Here is a man who, in any other primary process, would have already put the nomination to bed and moved on in preparation for the general election. However, this is 2012, a year in which all sorts of rules, norms and traditions concerning politics are being rewritten. The political arena has always been high drama, theatre for the vain, ambitious and power-hungry members of society, but even Shakespeare himself could not have dreamed up such an epic play. There are two sides of this entire race that leave everyone thoroughly baffled.
On the one hand, in any other cycle Romney, simply based on the direction in which the Republican party has been headed in recent years, would have been thoroughly unqualified to be the standard-bearer for the party and face President Obama in the fall. The party is clearly looking for a Barry Goldwater-type leader to oversee a new conservative revolution in the country. What conservatives forget is that in 1964, when they picked Goldwater over the moderate Nelson Rockefeller, the party ended up losing the election in humiliating fashion, with the Democratic incumbent, Lyndon Johnson, scoring one of the largest landslides in history.
On the other hand, in terms of simple competence and moderation, only Mitt Romney looks the part of the president. The other three seem rather out of place—they have no problems generating nonsensical, cockamamie ideas that serve to do nothing but appease their base and satisfy their respective ideologies.
Essentially, Romney is the party’s only viable option, since he is the one candidate left with enough resources, infrastructure and a record good enough to take on the current incumbent. However, Republicans are freedom lovers, and in that spirit thoroughly abhor arranged marriages. The Republican primary voters feel the powers that be in the Grand Old Party forcing them to pick someone who they have no love for, and in turn they go out of their way to cast protest votes for the likes of Newt Gingrich and Rick Santorum. Never mind the fact that these two candidates have no prayer for seizing the White House from the Democrats. Make no mistake about it—more people vote against Mitt Romney in these primaries than they actually vote for any other candidate.
As the race drags on, Romney’s number one appeal—the fact that he might attract the Independents that make up 40 percent of the American electorate, according to a recent Gallup poll—is being dragged down. As he relies more and more on negative campaigning and a scorched-earth policy in dealing with his rivals, Romney continues to lose more and more of his luster. He is, in turn, handing the president and his Chicago political machine a rather easy task in November. This president was ripe for an upset, ready to be voted out of office, just mere months ago. But now it seems only a miracle or a great tragedy could bring him down.
In the past, even if the base did not like the front runner, they would generally go with him simply because by Super Tuesday the process would have already been locked in. But, alas, it seems that nowadays the Republican National Committee is being run by know-nothing amateurs. They seem to think a long slog would be beneficial for the party, since it was beneficial for President Obama four years ago in his battle with Hillary Clinton.
However, it seems that they forgot that the Republican party is made up of individuals who ardently believe in the notion that only the worthy and the tough get to lead the masses. Republicans love red meat, and usually the candidate who throws the rhetorical bomb often enough is the one who gets the most votes, particularly in the South. In that regard, the smartest, most appealing potential candidates decided not to run this go-around, which was wise of them.
This should not be like middle school, where the biggest kid is also the most popular, most feared and most respected. This is a presidential race, wherein the smartest of men and women ought to be vetted and picked in a sensible race, not a process that involves idiotic mud-slinging and false posturing. Romney, God bless him, really wants this nomination, and as such he is forced to wage wars that make little political sense in the long run. He is hurting his brand and limping his way to the nomination process.
This primary is dragging on and on, and each of these candidates is becoming more and more wounded as it does so. Yet they still march on, thanks to the help of Super PACs and the new ridiculous appropriation system that awards everyone delegates. Perhaps, if he ends up winning the nomination, Romney might find a way to get back on message and educate the public on his 59 point jobs plan, though holding one’s breath for that could be futile at this point.
Usually races are won not just by pointing out stark differences between candidates, but also by laying out a narrative that covers the history of a candidate and the vision that candidate has for the country. The Republicans are masters of the former, but lately they have forgotten how to enact the latter. The party needs to recognize one basic truth about any organized entity, be it societies, aristocracies or even political parties: none of these entities can be survived by their intransigents. It is only through healthy debate on the issues and, eventually, sensible compromise that any party survives and thrives. Otherwise, the GOP will find itself in lengthy political doldrums. If they do not get their act together soon, I fear more people around the country will soon be reaching for that bottle of whisky and revolver.