Lindsey Graham has declared Mitt Romney to be the leading candidate for the Republican presidential nomination in 2012. “He’s got his problems, but so does everybody else,” Graham helpfully explained.
But not all problems are equal, and Romney’s seem fundamental. One of them is that he is suspected by the Republican base of not being very conservative, and this suspicion coalesces around a vital issue — health care reform. In addition, Romney ran unimpressively in 2008 against a rather weak field.
In fairness to Sen. Graham’s assessment, though, John McCain (with Graham at his side) ran successfully for the nomination in 2008 despite similar problems. If anything, the conservative base was more uncomfortable with McCain than it is now with Romney, McCain having crossed it on such vital issues as immigration and campaign finance reform. And though McCain ran more impressively in 2000 than Romney did in 2008, the Arizona Senator hadn’t exactly set the world on fire in losing to the relatively untested George W. Bush. Yet, he prevailed handily in 2008.
Thus, if one believes that next year’s Republican primary dynamics will resemble those of 2008, then it is quite reasonable to view Romney as the frontrunner. However, 2010 has conditioned many of us to believe that the dynamics of the Party have been transformed. If so, then Romney’s problems may well be different in degree than those confronting his most serious rivals, and he is probably miscast as the frontrunner.
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