The only thing truly inevitable about Mitt Romney is that he would get the Bad Lip Reading treatment, as Rick Perry, Michele Bachmann and Barack Obama all have before.
Regarding the WSJ’s read on the primary, I have to confess to being underwhelmed by it. The Journal was infamous in 2007 for pushing a really bad idea — amnesty for illegal aliens — and using smear tactics against conservatives in that campaign. Those of us who remember the Journal smearing us for wanting to uphold the rule of law then won’t be swayed much by their read on the primary now. They’re fine on many things, but they are also very much the establishment. And the establishment seems to be coalescing around Romney, and telling the rest of us to like it without persuading us that we should.
The Journal brings up George H. W. Bush as an uninspiring figure who won the presidency. What that overlooks is that Bush ran essentially as the incumbent, and followed Ronald Reagan, the greatest president of the 20th century. Romney will not have that wind at his back. He will be facing a weakened but devious, clever and desperate opponent who enjoys the power of incumbency and will have a massive amount of campaign money to throw at him. I’m not at all convinced that an uninspiring figure is the GOP’s best shot at beating him.
And, it’s worth remembering that Bush 41 didn’t hang onto the presidency for a second term. Because he compromised with Democrats, to his own detriment.
The fact is, Mitt Romney has been running for this nomination for about five years now, and still has about 75% of the GOP electorate wanting to vote for someone else. We’ve seen a succession of candidates rise and fall mainly as alternatives to Romney on the right, while he continues to hug a solid quarter to third against a divided field. That circumstance is playing to his strengths — name recognition, money raising, organizational talent, being an experienced public speaker, etc — but a thinned field to his right probably puts either Cain or Perry ahead of him. A Cain/Perry truce could well bury Romney in South Carolina. But that truce, at this stage, is not likely. Which is a shame, since a ticket featuring the both of them may be unbeatable.
It’s true that Romney hasn’t stumbled much in the primary. But it’s equally true that he hasn’t come under any sustained fire and most of his supporters don’t seem to mind his consistent tilts to the left when he was governor. That he governed a blue state is no excuse — Scott Walker governs one now, and has not accepted that status quo as a policy jail for him. Rick Perry inherited a state in transition and helped turn Texas red, bright and deep. Bobby Jindal took a terrible situation in Louisiana and has become one of the nation’s most effective governors. To lead as these and other conservative governors has, requires, you know, actual belief in the conservative cause. Romney’s record as governor is all we really have to go on, since rhetorically he has been on both sides of most major issues (and, news flash — many politicians lie to get your vote). The problems in Romney’s history are not really deviations from orthodoxy of the type we get with every conservative officeholder. There’s just no evident orthodoxy in Romney’s soul at all. What does he actually believe? Who would a President Romney put on the Supreme Court? Or send to represent the US at the UN? I have some idea of the kinds of appointments nearly all the other candidates would make and the policies they would pursue, but Romney? You tell me.