After many hard-fought months, Mitt Romney has emerged triumphant as the de facto Republican presidential nominee. With all his rivals out of the picture except Ron Paul, who lacks enough mainstream appeal to be a true threat, Romney can now finally focus his sights on the White House.
It has been a hard-fought battle for Romney, but most of us who follow politics have seen this coming for a long while. As a coworker of mine once said, “It’s going to be Romney. It has always been Romney.” There are several simple reasons for this.
Firstly, Romney has money. He has myriad friends and connections in the world of finance that have helped him fund his campaign, as well as several super-PACs which funded campaigns against his opponents. In any election the most important asset is money, and Romney has that in spades.
Secondly, Romney is electable. Another key element to elections is mainstream appeal. If a candidate’s views stray too wildly to the extremes of conservatism or liberalism, they lose their ability to sway uninformed or undecided voters. While Ron Paul’s platform of returning to the gold standard, or Rick Santorum’s platform of trying to effectively ban pornography may appeal to a small minority of voters, most see those stances as being far too radical. Romney is more generic in many of his stances and only leans strongly conservative in more subtle ways, such as immigration policy and women’s healthcare.
Romney didn’t survive the campaign intact, however. Every one of his rivals regularly attacked him, and some such as Rick Santorum and Newt Gingrich still refuse to endorse his bid for president.
Romney has problems more fundamental than attack ads or dissent from other candidates.
During the campaign, the GOP brought many candidates into the spotlight and then discarded them, either because of personal failings or being unable to keep up with Romney’s money. The party desperately searched for someone who wasn’t Romney and is now stuck trying to settle for Romney.
This points to a schism running deeply throughout the Republican Party. Specifically, between the general party and the highly religious social conservative portion of the party, which makes up a notable portion of Republican voters. This group, while pleased by candidates such as Santorum or Perry, naturally has a problem with Romney. They view his Mormonism as strange and foreign. Many Republicans also see his stances as too moderate.
Romney also has to worry about the Tea Party base, for being too economically moderate and for proposing a healthcare plan resembling Obama’s.
This highly conservative base puts Romney in an uncomfortable position. If he tries to appeal to his conservative base, he risks alienating moderate voters. But, if he tries to bring in more voters, his already unhappy base may give him a strong reaction. Romney is stuck in a “catch-22” with no clear way out. He has a difficult campaign ahead of him.