In the wake of the Florida Primary it is clear that Mitt Romney is able to attract the widest swath of voters who are registered Republican. But it is also clear that the more conservative, tea party elements of the party are still suspect of his conservative credentials. Many point to “Romney-Care” in Massachusetts, which they say is exactly the same as “Obama-Care” and which will put Romney at a disadvantage when he attempts to make the case that he is going to dismantle “Obama-Care’ upon election to the White House. Unfortunately talking heads on radio, like Rush Limbaugh and Sean Hannity among others have been feeding their listeners a steady diet of how “Romney-Care” is just like “Obama-Care,” and how Romney would only be a carbon copy of Obama. Unfortunately, the problem with listening to these guys is that once you buy into their premise you are stuck with their conclusions for the next three hours. And, as Ann Coulter pointed out the other day, they are misleading their listeners, and in so doing, making it tougher for Romney to emerge from the convention as the Conservative with a united party behind him. Coulter accurately pointed out that not only did many conservative think-tanks support the individual mandate as was implemented in the Massachusetts healthcare model, but the Heritage Foundation itself, actually had a major role in designing that plan, and sent one of its board members to the signing in Massachusetts. So unlike what the right wing talking heads have been ranting about, the healthcare plan signed by Mitt Romney was in fact, the product of conservative thinking. The Obama national healthcare plan is constitutionally different because the issue in that plan is whether relying on the commerce clause of the Constitution, the Federal government can “force” people to buy an insurance policy. But whether or not the Obama plan is upheld as constitutional, the right wing pundits, whose main interest is in keeping their audiences pumped, and keeping their generous contracts, have to take radical positions regardless of the facts.
The Republican Party therefore is split between those who believe that the next president’s number one job is to fix the economy and create jobs, and those who believe that only a purist, ideological conservative, who meets all the litmus tests on social issues, as well as on fiscal issues, should be nominated. Newt is their last best hope, but as he has already demonstrated in the primaries, he is not a universal candidate, and his many flaws, both personal, and while he was Speaker, has not persuaded a majority of Republicans that he would be able to…
1. Win the election, and
2. Govern the nation.
Nor do I believe that in the remaining primaries, other than the southern states, Gingrich will be able to keep up with Romney in the remaining primaries, and certainly not when we get to the final big state primaries of California and New York. So that, even though Newt asserts in protest that he will go all the way to the convention, it appears that his chances of ultimately getting the nomination are nil. Unfortunately what Newt can do is to make sure that Romney comes out of a convention that more resembles the 1964 convention which nominated Barry Goldwater. And we all know what happened in 1964 – Republicans were defeated all across the nation in offices both at the state and local level.
So the real question becomes, can Romney pull the whole party together at the GOP Convention in the end, and make the election a referendum on President Obama. Florida makes it clear that when Republicans attack Republicans on such a nasty level, the only ones to benefit are the Democrats; particularly the White House. If Newt keeps up his personal invective against Mitt, I can envision a nominating convention where half the delegates boo the nominee. And that is no way to run a railroad. In fact, Newt claims to be the real disciple of Ronald Reagan, but Reagan made clear that his 11th commandment was never to deride a fellow Republican.
Mitt has demonstrated, by his performance at the Florida debates, that he is quite able to go up against the President in any future debate match-up, so the argument that Newt is the only one who is good on his feet is nonsense. The real test should be who is more vulnerable to the attacks that will be raised by the President’s re-election campaign. And both from a personal perspective and a political perspective, Newt is the most vulnerable. Even if he can talk his way around his three marriages, and his alleged proposal to his second wife that they have an open marriage, not something that I believe would appeal to independents in the heartland states, but even if he could somehow justify his personal peccadilloes, the mere fact that so many people who worked with him when he was Speaker have pronounced him unfit to be President, strongly suggesting he would be devastating.
We have come to the final issue which some have relied upon in an attempt to undermine Mitt’s candidacy. It can be summarized by the terms, “tone deaf,” “unable to connect with the average working guy,” “a very rich man who doesn’t understand what the middle class is going through;” to which I say, ‘Nonsense!’ Mitt Romney is an example of what capitalism can do for those who apply themselves; get an education and become successful. Romney did not inherit his wealth. He made it the old-fashioned way. The issue of how much income taxes he paid is not an issue that cuts against Romney. It simple illustrates how irrational our tax code has become. The Romney statement that, “he is not concerned with poor people,” is not an indication of his inability to connect with the “average man.” It is clear proof that as president, he would not cater to those in the one percent, and would continue to insure that those unable to provide for themselves, through programs that already exist, and to the extent they are broken, he would fix them. More importantly, his emphasis on his concern with the middle class demonstrates that Romney recognizes that creating jobs, and creating opportunities for the great bulk of those who have suffered during the Great Recession, will be his number one priority in the Oval Office. So rather than being tone-deaf, he is right on target with his message; his concern, and those who seek to portray him as a multimillionaire who is disconnected, would have had to make those same arguments if George Washington, Franklin Roosevelt, or John Kennedy were running, and that was clearly rebutted by what they stood for and how they governed.
Michael ‘Mike’ Edelman is a political commentator and consultant based in Westchester County. He is a partner in the Worby Groner Edelman (www.wgelaw.com/) personal injury law firm.