Feature

Romney: The GOP's inevitable nominee?

Romney doesn't enjoy overwhelming support among Republican voters, yet the enthusiasm for the more conservative candidates isn't strong enough to outmatch him.

From the point of view of a Republican primary voter, Mitt Romney would seem to have it all, said Jonathan Martin in Politico.com. He’s intelligent, articulate, handsome, experienced in both business and government, and the candidate with the best shot of winning over independents and beating Barack Obama in next year’s presidential election. Yet “most Republicans still don’t want to nominate him.” For months now, polls show Romney’s support among Republican voters stuck just short of 25 percent, while the party keeps casting about for more-conservative alternatives, from Michele Bachmann to Rick Perry to Herman Cain. The “so-called Republican Establishment” may have accepted Romney as the “inevitable” nominee, said Ed Kilgore in NewRepublic.com, but those in the fired-up Tea Party base haven’t. They don’t consider Romney a true conservative, because as governor of blue-state Massachusetts, he pushed through a universal health-care plan that served as the basis for “Obamacare,” and was for gay rights and legal abortion before he was against them. So now “it’s gut-check time for the Right.” Does the GOP nominate the safe bet? Or will party leaders “just throw up their hands and let the rank-and-file roll the dice” on a hard-right candidate like Perry or Cain?

This much is clear, said Mark Sappenfield in CSMonitor.com. Mitt Romney is “clearly not what his own party wants.” With the economic misery index still sky-high, President Obama looks extremely vulnerable, and that has the Tea Party/conservative base “in no mood to compromise.” Conservatives don’t want to lose another election by picking an unexciting moderate like Bob Dole or John McCain, or almost as bad, wind up with a centrist Republican president like George H.W. Bush. “They want a revolution,” and Romney simply isn’t the man to provide it. He may currently have “the appearance of being the front-runner,” said Rick Moran in AmericanThinker.com, but that’s because at the moment the conservative vote “is badly split” among Cain, Perry, and Bachmann. As the field narrows, and conservatives rally behind a single not-Mitt candidate, “we’ll see how inevitable he is.”

It’s already too late, said Jonathan Tobin in CommentaryMagazine.com. GOP voters may be yearning for an ideologically pure nominee, but the fact that Romney is still leading the pack proves that they’ve failed to find one. Bachmann and Perry briefly surged in the polls, before showing they were “not ready for prime time.” The Cain “boomlet” is about over, too.  Romney may not inspire passion, said Gerald Seib in The Wall Street Journal, but Republicans are slowly coming around to him, based on his strong, confident debate performances. In polls, 60 percent of self-described “very conservative” Republicans say they have positive feelings about Romney; even those who support other candidates name Romney as their second choice. “If the question is whether Republicans can learn to live with Mitt Romney, the numbers suggest many already have.”

Such lukewarm support hardly guarantees success in the upcoming primaries, said Rich Lowry in NationalReview.com. “Romney is still Romney”—cool, smooth, even robotic at times—and doesn’t “inspire or connect” with conservatives hungry for real leadership. Given the GOP’s desperation for a candidate who can beat Obama, it’s possible that Romney’s lack of genuine conservative fire won’t cost him the nomination. “But it helps account for the tenuous attachment of voters to him that still makes him vulnerable, even as the talk of his inevitability grows.”

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