Many leading conservatives have never really loved Mitt Romney. He wasn't their choice in the primaries, and they don't really trust that he's a conservative to his core. But Romney is the Republican Party's anointed "vehicle to drive Obama from the White House," says Ryan Grim at The Huffington Post, so conservatives have jumped on board. But now that the Romney campaign appears to have hit a bit of a rough patch, "conservatives are wondering if the lemon they bought is enough to finish the race." From media mogul Rupert Murdoch and his various editorial pages to conservative radio hosts Laura Ingraham and Rush Limbaugh, several big conservative voices have weighed in this week with exasperation and advice for Romney. Here, four big beefs the Right has with the GOP standard-bearer:
1. Romney is too vague
Offering few detailed proposals for governing is a deliberate strategy by the Romney campaign, as it helps them avoid providing specific targets for Team Obama to hit. "Democrats have long been making an issue of the lack of specificity," says Steve Kornacki at Salon. But now Romney's fellow Republicans are demanding more details, too. Conservatives want their ideas to win, not just their candidate, and now that Romney appears to be losing ground, he's got Rupert Murdoch tweeting for him to offer a "specific path to restore [the] American dream" and The Wall Street Journal editors gently warning that if Romney plans to "win the election without having to explain the economic moment or even his own policies," well, that "vagueness carries its own political risks."
2. He's failing to embrace Paul Ryan's movement
When Romney tapped House GOP budget whiz Rep. Paul Ryan (Wis.) as his running mate, wary conservatives were suddenly gleeful at the idea that Romney had decided to "engage in an authentic, if high-risk, war of ideas," say Jim VandeHei and Alexander Burns at Politico. Team Romney didn't exactly discourage that notion at first, but in the intervening weeks, it's become clear that he chose Ryan based mostly on "personal chemistry," not the congressman's bold plan to slash federal spending and overhaul entitlement programs. Sadly for conservatives, "Romney's message is untouched by his running mate's revolutionary fiscal realism," says Michael Gerson at The Washington Post. "Romney chose Ryan, not Ryanism."
3. Romney has ceded foreign policy to Obama
"Since the end of the World War II, Democrats have usually found themselves playing defense on national security," say Michael Hastings, McKay Coppins, and Zeke Miller at BuzzFeed. Not this year. The polls show voters trust Obama a lot on foreign policy, thanks in part to the killing of Osama bin Laden, and in part to Romney's fumbles. "Romney's reluctance to outline a thoughtful policy on Afghanistan" is especially baffling, says William McGurn in The Wall Street Journal. Along with his not mentioning the troops in his big convention speech, the lack of a plan is "a disservice to the stronger foreign policy Mr. Romney is alleged to represent." Indeed, says Jennifer Rubin at The Washington Post, "his foreign policy message, not unlike his domestic policy message, is getting put through the Boston blender... [and] coming out mush. That would be mush with no flavor."
4. He's not winning
It's worth noting that "Romney is enjoying at least the fourth public loss of confidence by conservative elites since winning the nomination," says John Dickerson at Slate. It happens about once a month, about the time Romney fails to break away after another soft jobs report. Conservatives think that "given the persistently glum economic news, even an area rug could beat the incumbent." Since Romney still trails, they panic. This month's "'you're so vague' complaint" is probably the latest iteration of conservatives' real gripe with Romney, stretching back to at least the primaries: "He can't close the deal." He may still win in November, but unless he breaks away from Obama in the next few weeks, the "campaign wizards at Romney's Boston headquarters should start mixing the October poultice now" for the next outbreak of conservative fever.