What if Mitt Romney wins the Republican nomination for president in 2012?
A vast majority of conservatives become anxiety-ridden at the mere posing of this question, and many go ballistic at the thought of it actually happening.
So a quick visit to a therapist may be helpful.
Imagine yourself lying on a couch in the spring of 2012 with soothing music playing in the background. News breaks that former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney has clinched the Republican nomination for president.
Your therapist, knowing that as a true conservative you worked against Romney by supporting (fill in the blank), asks in a soft comforting voice, “How does this news make you feel — angry, betrayed, confused?”
The therapist is insisting that you anticipate your feelings and mentally prepare yourself because Intrade, the respected online prediction market operating outside of polls and politics, is betting on Romney with a 23.9% chance of him winning the GOP nomination. (By comparison, former Minnesota Governor Tim Pawlenty is second at 15.3% and Indiana Governor Mitch Daniels is third at 9.5%. The rest of the GOP field is in single digits. Note: Intrade is a fluid prediction market, therefore percentages change frequently, but Romney has consistently led the GOP field. )
Intrade also pegs Obama’s re-election prospects at 58.6%, but your therapist says she will address those negative feelings in a future session.
This hour she wants you to work through the stress associated with accepting Romney as the GOP nominee.
So in an empathetic tone she asks you to think about the following questions:
Are you going to pick up your signs for Candidate X and go home?
Could you work for and support Romney’s campaign?
Will you vote for Romney in the 2012 election?
What if the polls show that Romney is running neck and neck with Obama?
Do you resent that squishy independent swing vote that is fueling Romney?
Finally, the therapy session is over and you leave her office with a huge headache. You realize you would have real problems supporting Romney as the nominee and even imagining these questions makes you angry.
Can you relate to this scenario?
Since the defeat of John McCain in the 2008 presidential election, I have heard numerous conservatives admit they held their nose and supported him. They say that in 2012 they will not support anyone but a “true conservative.”
Which begs the question, what is a “true conservative” these days?
Would President Reagan have even qualified, considering he granted amnesty to three million illegal aliens in 1986?
The following week the therapist works through your behavioral options if Romney wins the nomination:
You can support Romney 100% because as the nominee he will be your only chance of making Obama a one-term president. You can break away from the GOP and start a third party with Candidate X. (Although this ensures Obama will win re-election, you can feel good because you stuck by your principles.)
You can insist that Romney select a “true conservative” as his vice-presidential running mate. (This is similar to what McCain did with his selection of Sarah Palin.) But if Romney doesn’t select a running mate conservative enough for you, will you “punish” him by staying home and not helping the campaign at any level?
Then your wise therapist reads you a quote from Ronald Reagan.
On February 9, 1983, when asked about people who said he was “moving away from the policies and principles that got you elected,” Reagan responded by explaining that compromise is not retreat: “I’m not retreating an inch from where I was. But I also recognize this: There are some people who would have you so stand on principle that if you don’t get all that you’ve asked for from the legislature, why, you jump off the cliff with the flag flying. I have always figured that a half a loaf is better than none, and I know that in the democratic process you’re not going to always get everything you want. So, I think what they’ve misread is times in which I have compromised.”
Ah … the wisdom of Ronald Reagan: “half a loaf is better than none.”
Good advice all Republicans should remember. For if Romney does manage to win the 2012 nomination, conservatives must admit that he would be a “half loaf” better than another full loaf of Obama.
The truth is the Republican Party is fractured. However, someone has to be the nominee and chances are it will be someone that a good chunk of the party did not initially support — or still might not support after the nomination process is over.
That would be a huge mistake.
Republicans must unite and together build a massive 50 state national campaign and the fundraising apparatus to support it. And the sooner the better, because besides the obvious advantage of incumbency, the opposing team will be well managed and organized on the ground, the airwaves, and in cyberspace.
President Obama will have close to a billion dollars in his campaign war chest. This will buy him millions of dollars of air time, including 30-minute infomercials. He will have the funds to hire thousands of staff, pay “volunteers” to stand for hours at the local mall, and bloggers to flood the internet with favorable content. Perhaps he’ll even have a few thousand left over to “buy” some new voter registrations.
But Obama can not buy down our national right-track, wrong-track number: 67.5% of Americans think our nation is on the wrong track. He can not buy down the official unemployment rate, which just climbed back up to 9%. He can’t buy down the real unemployment rate, which some experts estimate to be closer to 18%.
President Obama can be defeated because his vision for America’s economic future vastly differs from that of Republicans and the all important independent swing voters who helped forge those historic wins in the 2010 midterm elections.
A Republican victory in 2012 will hinge on getting those voters back again. Therefore, grassroots Republicans participating in the primary process must keep their eye on the general election and ask themselves: could my candidate attract independent voters in key battleground states like Virginia or Florida?
Romney as the GOP nominee might just wind up representing that “half loaf is better than none” philosophy for many Republicans. If that is the eventual outcome, and as a “true conservative” you find yourself still demanding a “full loaf,” please consult a therapist and Ronald Reagan.