Thursday, February 07, 2008

Republicans: Lost Base, Lost Election

Today former governor Mitt Romney suspended his bid to become the Republican nominee for President of the United States. I can't help but feel a deep sense of disappointment. Not just because my guy lost; I feel bad for America. I have been a Romney supporter from the beginning. I feel that Romney represented conservative ideals better than any other candidate and he was the most qualified candidate to lead this country and compete and win in a general election. The Republican primary should have been designed to select the candidate which would have the best chance in a general election against the Democratic candidate. So, what happened? If Romney was the best candidate, how did the election process fail?

Romney started out as a relative unknown to most of the country (except UT, MI, and MA). The primary process did work to allow Romney to organize a well-oiled campaign, raise money, and get his message out. So, by the start of the start of the primary he was a contender.

Being Republican is not the same as being Conservative. The Republican party doesn't care about conservative principles. At the end of the day, they want their guy to win. And in a two-party system, the candidate who can attract the moderates and undecideds has the advantage. In the primaries, a candidate seeks to attract the base of his or her party first. And then in the general election try to appeal to the moderates and undecideds with the help of his enthusiastic base. In this case, the Republican leadership put it's support behind McCain, not because he was conservative, but because he was more liberal or moderate.

Many people in the US do not consider themselves strict Democrats or strict Republicans. These luke-warm individuals call themselves independants or moderates. But even the middle in the US has drifted left over the years. According to several recent polls, most people in the US and in the Republican party do not believe that sex before marriage is wrong. This shift in values is also reflected in other issues such as abortion, gay rights, and welfare. So, the middle has moved left and as a consequence, the "New, Modern Republican Party" has moved left. That's how a pro-choice, Rudy Giuliani, could run as a Republican and how Independent, Joseph Lieberman, is being considered as John McCain's VP. It's not about conservative principles. It's about taking the middle and winning power.

However, the "New Republican Party" made a grave miscalculation. In the past they sought the candidate in the primary that could unify its base. But this time they went with McCain because they are counting on his moderate views to attract more of the middle. That is why leaders of the "New Republican Party" came out with their endorsements for McCain leading into Super Tuesday. They know the conservative base does not like McCain, but they are counting on conservatives voting for him anyways in a general election. However, the Republican Party overlook a very important principle.

In supporting McCain, the Republican party has just alienated its base. Moderates and Independents are luke-warm. Moderates don't make good phone callers or donors. Independents arent the people who put out lawn signs, talk to their friends at work, and put bumper stickers on their car. The luke-warm moderates don't have the passion to drive the campaign. They are the ones who are taken whichever way the wind is blowing. Conservatives may hold their nose and vote McCain, but McCain is not going to stimulate the base to drive a grass roots movement in the general election to win over enough of these luke-warm voters. Voting for McCain because you hate or fear Hillary will not generate the ground swell that love for your candidate would. This is the "New Republican's" mistake. Love wins campaigns, not hate and fear. Consequently, I predict McCain will lose to Clinton or Obama.

The West Virginia primary convention represented everything wrong with Washington and this election. According to West Virginia convention rules, the winner must have a majority of the vote. After the first vote Romney was way ahead of McCain or Huckabee. But he just fell short of the 51% needed. So, before the second vote, McCain's people called Huckabee's and Ron Paul's people and arranged a back-room deal to railroad any momentum an early West Virginia win would give Romney going into Super Tuesday. McCain told Huckabee that hewould tell his and Paul's people to vote for him in exchange for a couple delegates awarded to Paul. When then second vote was tallied, with McCain and Paul's votes to Huckabee, Huckabee was just able to edge Romney by a few points, get the majority, the delegates, and derail any momentum by Romney going forward. This was a deal I would expect to see done on "Survivor" or some other "reality"-TV show and exactly the kind of thing that has corrupted Washington.

In his campaign suspension speech, Mitt Romney made an interesting observation. Even though McCain was well ahead of Romney in the delegate count, he was only slightly ahead in terms of overall votes and states won. This is because a back-room deal had been struck with Rudy Giuliani a year earlier making the big states like California, New York, and Illinois winner-take-all. Coming from a big city, Giuliani thought he had the best chance of attracting the votes from other states with big cities such as California and Illinois. Giuliani was able to convince the Republican Convention to go along because he hoped the winner-take-all situation would result in an early front runner and result in the ability of the party to launch their general election campaign earlier. Giuliani miscalculated or was purposefully mislead by not engaging in the early primary states and the winner-take-all set up served to benefit McCain and TKO Romney.

The Republican Party knew that Huckabee wasn't a viable presidential candidate. Even Huckabee knew he wasn't a viable candidate as he was seen blatantly "kissing up" to McCain during their last 3 or 4 debates. After coming in a distant 3rd in Florida, Huckabee was rightfully criticized for staying in the race. He stayed in the race for one reason and one reason only-- to serve as spoiler. He knew he would fracture the conservative base who were choosing between himself and Romney allowing McCain to just edge Romney in the polls because of the moderate vote. I'm sure someone may have told Huckabee that he may be considered for VP. That will never happen. McCain and the Republican Party would have no respect for the pawn they have used in their political chess game.

Dr. Richard Land, the President of the Southern Baptist Convention, (who has made numerous appearances in the media), appeared tonight "The News Hour with Jim Lehrer" to comment on Mitt Romney's withdrawal. After commenting on numerous political policies, he said he was happy with McCain because he was pro-life and that's what was important to him. I can't say I would be surprised to learn that Huckabee was urged to stay in the race by the Southern Baptist Convention through Super Tuesday to hurt Romney. It is not secret that Evangelical leaders didn't want Romney as the nominee because, according to them, having a Mormon as president would have served to somehow "legitimize" the LDS faith and lead to more LDS conversions (heaven forbid).

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