John’s support of Mitt Romney is implicit in his comments on Rick Santorum, as it was in his comments on Newt Gingrich. John thinks that Romney presents Republicans with the best chance of beating Obama in November. He is therefore frustrated that they haven’t lined up behind Mitt in service to the cause.
Mitt is an inspirational candidate. The problem is that what he inspires is intense apathy among a substantial number of conservatives and Republicans. They (we) resist him. Santorum is the recycled non-Romney who now benefits from this resistance. He may be the last non-Romney standing. Among the previous beneficiaries of the resistance to Romney are Michele Bachmann, Rick Perry, Herman Cain, Newt Gingrich, Santorum, Gingrich and now Santorum again. The logic of a Romney candidacy has been insufficient so far to wear down the resistance of a large share of conservatives and Republicans.
I understand the resistance, but I am lukewarm on the non-Romneys as well. If I had to choose a candidate among them, I would choose Romney. I think he is the least bad of the lot.
The resistance to Romney among a large part of the base of the Republican Party, however, suggests to me that Romney himself would be less than a stellar candidate against Obama. He’s got problems that the non-Romneys have successfully exploited. Romney’s defense of Romneycare in the debates has been a recurrent thumb in the eye to the not inconsiderable number of Republicans for whom repeal of Obamacare is a priority along with fiscal and economic issues.
Romney himself must know he is not long on passionate supporters. His claim has been to superior electability against Obama among a weak field of GOP candidates. But the failure to inspire affection if not passion itself reflects a weakness in a candidate for high elective office.
There are other weaknesses in Mitt’s candidacy; Ben Domenech explores them in “The trouble with Mitt.” The attack by Romney and his surrogates on Santorum for having voted to increase the debt limit when he was in the Senate reflects some of these other weaknesses. Mitt must think we’re really, really stupid.
The inclination of Republican primary voters and caucus goers to support Gingrich or Santorum is not the sign of a character flaw or mental defect on their part. It is a sign that Romney is a problematic candidate for the party whose standard bearer he seeks to be. Decrying the failure of Republican voters for failing to fall in line behind him seems to me something less than a winning argument.