GOP Establishment Corner Conservative Insurrection
The Alamo for the short-lived TEA Party Era and its social conservative underbelly is nigh. It takes place as this goes to press with its best presidential candidate left ignoring polls, election results, pundit prognostication, entrenched Republican power-plays, high-profile endorsements, a paltry campaign bankbook, history, and his party’s better wishes to quit. Rick Santorum’s consolidated support has a staunch foundation that appears ready to make one last pitch to Republican voters to curtail the candidacy of moderate, Mitt Romney. And the anger in the Republican Party today is palpable.
Despite protestation to the contrary, party officials are convinced that this primary season has severely weakened an already pathetic candidate, who after nearly six years running for president has taken far longer than any expected to clear a shaky field. The process has taken its toll, shedding likely Independent support as well as eradicating the women’s vote, which has gone from a 14 percent gap to a present 37 percent chasm. A national candidate with a singular economic message in a dire economic landscape was dragged kicking and screaming into ethnic, social, religious and gender issues that has cost the party precious time and money in which to aim at an extremely vulnerable incumbent.
The party knows this middling argument that a protracted primary fight that assisted the branding of Barack Obama in 2008 does not apply to Romney. In the winter of ’07 Obama was an unknown commodity and trailing a political monolith whose credentials and long-standing party affiliation was daunting. Hillary Clinton not only owned the Democratic Party when Obama began his long slog to the nomination, she had all the money and prospects to earn her Madam Shoo-in tag. Not to mention Obama’s grassroots, social media strategy that took time to develop and expand in each state he contested—something that closed the familiarity and money gap with each primary.
In this hackneyed analogy, Romney is Hillary Clinton. He has the party gravitas, the treasure and the name recognition that by all measures of competition should have laid waste to what at first was a comical set of challengers that eventually turned into a rank amateur opposition. Newt Gingrich never had any money and hardly maintained a coherent strategy from the opening bell. After the anti-Romney wing ran out of Trojan Horses, Santorum was left standing—a man with less resources and a far more haphazard organization than Gingrich.
But it mattered little in the end. The Republican Party rounded up every statesmen, governor and celebrity within the contiguous United States to beat the drum, albeit half-heartedly, for Romney, reasoning that the object is to present a viable candidate to defeat this president, a constitutional lawyer, whose signature piece of legislation is about to be deemed a pox on that very document by the Supreme Court with an over eight percent unemployment number and rising gas prices. Money and pressure from the media—along with several antediluvian stances on 21st century concepts—sunk Rick Santorum and the underground conservative movement. Allowing a rotting corpse to foul the Republican brand any longer is political suicide.
But Santorum was never the issue for the anti-Romney contingent. They would have been just as happy with Michelle Bachmann or Rick Perry or the television hack or the pizza guy. Hell, up until two weeks ago there was serious talk by respected political minds of a brokered convention and another goddamn Bush being yanked from the closet to front the ticket. And so with the tolling bell, the anti-Romney voices shall rise up with a plan to press Gingrich to finally drop the charade and hand over his support and more importantly his delegates to Santorum for one last Pickett’s Charge.
However, reports are now surfacing that Gingrich is adamant in making a mockery of the Republican Convention in August, threatening over the past weeks that he would seriously consider an exploratory independent research party to siphon votes from a general election pool that would in all likelihood end up in a four to six point dogfight by November. Getting out of the race for Gingrich, who realizes at this stage of his career—his advanced age and legitimacy within the party he once toiled for—has scorched every bridge he has crossed and is acting like the worst kind of political wild animal; a man with nothing left to lose.
Gingrich’s exit is the key to sustaining any real hope for survival until August for the anti-Romney contingent. Making the case that a two-man race has prevented Santorum from truly challenging Romney will have to suffice. Having a candidate drop his home state, as it appears Santorum will do in Pennsylvania barring overcoming a 12 percent deficit, is a sinking narrative, but not the death knell wrongly reported.
Ignoring the expected hoopla surrounding Romney’s inevitability, the math simply does not add up. He cannot make the requisite delegate count by August and even with a body-blow victory in Pennsylvania, beginning on May 8, the month holds a minefield for the Romney campaign. If previous primary results are any indication, contests first in Indiana, North Carolina and West Virginia, then onto Oregon (May 15), followed by Arkansas and Kentucky (May 22), and finally the mother of all Southern primaries, Texas on May 28 will at the very least keep Romney in a stalemate and may make a case for a Santorum alternative.
This is why Republican Party officials are calling for order and not a complete count of the votes. Santorum was technically right the other evening when he proclaimed the primary season at its halftime. There is voting to be done, none of which will make him the nominee, but could dismantle the inner workings of the party the way the Ronald Reagan late surge in 1976 pushed Gerald Ford to the brink, making him spend money and time proving for all intents and purposes he was as ineffectual a candidate as originally presumed. Ford’s improbable two-month comeback against Jimmy Carter fell just short, a deficit Republican historians say now could have been solidified had Reagan not selfishly cut the incumbent president to ribbons.
That is the Reagan Revolution in a nutshell; the revolt was internal, like all serviceable revolts, and like all serviceable revolts, provided casualties. But Rick Santorum is no Reagan. He is unlikable, spiteful and quick to irrational anger. Unlike Reagan, an actor, union leader, corporate pitch man and governor, he is untrained and sloppy and he, according the political high rollers, is a beast in the hen house that they have responsibly invested, maneuvered and intimidated all variables to secure.
As stated in this space months ago, Mitt Romney will be your 2012 Republican candidate for president of the United States. The only question has ever been how strong and legitimate a candidate would be up to his party and the always annoying but effective noise of the voting booth.
James Campion is the Managing Editor of The Reality Check News & Information Desk and the author of Deep Tank Jersey, Fear No Art, Trailing Jesus and Midnight For Cinderella.