As we all await tonight’s debate in New Hampshire, it becomes clear that those of us who understand the necessity to unseat Barack Obama have a lot to worry about. Mitt Romney is still leading the pack, and is ahead even in the South Carolina polls. But the momentum of Rick Santorum’s challenge and the no-holds-barred attacks on Romney coming from Newt Gingrich (Gingrich regularly refers to Romney as the “Massachusetts moderate”) are taking their tolls.
Even the liberal columnist Joe Klein writes respectfully of Santorum, a candidate whose brand of social conservatism he strongly disagrees with. The man “lives his faith,” Klein writes, and he thinks that Santorum “will pose a significant working-class challenge to Romney’s corporate conservatism.”
Santorum will not win the nomination, and neither will Newt Gingrich. But the problem is that with many Republicans and especially self-proclaimed conservatives not being enthusiastic about Romney, as Klein writes, he “may not inspire sufficient numbers of Republicans to come out and vote.” The result, then, will be a second term for Barack Obama.
Then one must consider Newt Gingrich’s new motivation for his campaign — revenge against the Romney Super PAC for running the negative ads that resulted in the complete collapse of Newt’s efforts in Iowa. The man who only a few weeks ago predicted with confidence that he would get the nomination is now down in all the polls. Rather than maintain his prior promise of running no negative ads, Gingrich is promising to blast Romney with everything he has, to show the Republican electorate that Romney is not a conservative and will lose to the president if he gets the nomination.
If one is looking ahead to the November 2012 election campaign, all the anti-Romney attacks will work only to do precisely what Klein predicts — cause a lack of enthusiasm on the part of the Republican Party conservative base and quite likely lead them to not get to the polling booth on voting day.