|Aw, hell. You write the caption... I just don't have the heart.|
Yesterday, former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney announced he is forming an exploratory committee to run for President of the United States. Exploratory committees usually represent the official launch of a presidential campaign. Candidates can officially start raising money once such a committee is formed.
I believe that Mitt Romney's candidacy portends much for the future of the Republican party, especially when you consider its condition coming into the election.
The field of potential candidates is already winnowed, with such potentials as Jeb Bush and Haley Barbour looking reluctant or out-and-out averse to running. Who does that leave for the GOP? Rick Santorum? Michelle Bachmann? Newt Gingrich? These candidates (or at least, Mrs. Bachmann) may have some appeal with Tea Party folks, but they are generally anathema to so-called "mainstream voters." (Oh, yeah, let's not forget Tim Pawlenty. How could we forget Tim Pawlenty?)
Well, Romney may be more palatable to the political "middle" than these others, but Tea Party people view him with suspicion. After all, Romney was governor of one of the bluest states in the nation. That alone is enough to cast him in a bad light with the GOP base. But there is more.
While governor, he oversaw passage of a state plan for universal health insurance coverage, dubbed "Romney-care." This legislation was a precursor and model for the health care legislation passed by Democrats last year that is so loathed by right-wingers. (Romney recognizes the problem, having gone to (rather ineffectual) lengths to try to play down the association.)
Also, this: In 2002 as he was running for governor, Romney claimed to support a woman's right to make her own reproductive choices. But now that he's gone national, he has come out as anti-choice. Given the strict adherence demanded by the GOP base on the abortion issue, it is surprising that Romney does not deem this flip-flop to be fatal to his chances of success.
And then there is the fact that Romney is a Mormon. Tea Party folks may weep and tear their beards whenever anyone suggests Romney's faith would dissuade them, but I don't believe, in the end, they could bring themselves to vote to elect a Mormon as President of the United States. And I think most Republican king-makers know that.
Nonetheless, I think Romney has a better than even shot at getting the nomination.
Here's why: Republican mucky-mucks already suspect that 2012 is a lost cause for them. In much the same way that they offered up Mad Johnny McCain as their sacrificial lamb in the wake of the Junior Bush disaster, they will now nominate Romney, who they know has very little chance. Why waste an asset like Haley Barbour or Jeb Bush in a year when they face a relatively popular incumbent president? Rather, let Romney take the fall and blame it all on the moderates in the party. Those few that are left, anyway.
Like nearly every Mormon I know and have known personally, Mitt Romney seems like an honest, decent guy. I've got nothing against him. And, as far as Republicans go, I think he might not be a bad leader. But Mitt Romney finished second in 2008 to a man who was resoundingly rejected by the national electorate. And honest, decent men don't fare very well in the Republican party. Just ask Gordon Smith.
The GOP is so locked in to its regressive, primitive doctrine that any variation on the party line clangs like a dented cowbell. And Romney has a public record that he cannot escape. The GOP will never get behind him the way they would someone like Bush or Barbour.
Tea Party legislative "successes" aside, the GOP still seems headed for a brick-wall.
You won't catch me crying about it.