This is significant. Even George Will, the dean of Washington’s establishment conservative punditocracy, is beginning to see Mitt Romney as the disaster he’d be should he be the Republican nominee in 2012. And for Will, this must be difficult since Romney, that most established of establishment candidates, is exactly the kind of guy Will would normally support: Ivy League education, the son of a former Governor, easily malleable on social issues, etc., etc. And let’s not forget, last spring George Will decreed that Romney was only one of five potential GOP candidates worthy of consideration for the presidency:
Let us not mince words. There are at most five plausible Republican presidents on the horizon – Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels, Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour, former Utah governor and departing ambassador to China Jon Huntsman, former Massachusetts governor Romney and former Minnesota governor Tim Pawlenty.
Hmmm. With Huntsman an asterisk (at most) in recent polling, and Daniels, Barbour, and T-Paw out, that only leaves Mitt on Will’s approved candidate list. This should be a no brainer for George Will, right? Er…not so much anymore:
The Republican presidential dynamic — various candidates rise and recede; Mitt Romney remains at about 25 percent support — is peculiar because conservatives correctly believe that it is important to defeat Barack Obama but unimportant that Romney be president. This is not cognitive dissonance.
Obama, a floundering naif who thinks ATMs aggravate unemployment, is bewildered by a national tragedy of shattered dreams, decaying workforce skills and forgone wealth creation. Romney cannot enunciate a defensible, or even decipherable, ethanol policy.
Every day, 10,000 baby boomers become eligible for Social Security and Medicare, from which they will receive, on average, $1 million of benefits ($550,000 from the former, $450,000 from the latter). Who expects difficult reforms from Romney, whose twists on ethanol make a policy pretzel?
A straddle is not a political philosophy; it is what you do when you do not have one. It is what Romney did when he said that using Troubled Assets Relief Program funds for the General Motors and Chrysler bailouts “was the wrong source for that funding.” Oh, so the source was the bailouts’ defect.
Will continues to outline some of Multiple Choice Mitt’s recent flip flops and androgynous ideology before making a point that I hadn’t thought of, and one that should strike fear into any conservative (myself included), who’s counting on a Republican takeover of the U.S. Senate next year:
Romney, supposedly the Republican most electable next November, is a recidivist reviser of his principles who is not only becoming less electable; he might damage GOP chances of capturing the Senate. Republican successes down the ticket will depend on the energies of the Tea Party and other conservatives, who will be deflated by a nominee whose blurry profile in caution communicates only calculated trimming.
I’ve made the point many times that a Romney nomination will guarantee an Obama second term, mainly for the reason Will cited: A complete lack of enthusiasm, even contempt, for Mitt Romney by those Republican activists whose energy and daily participation is essential for a Republican victory over Obama’s $1 billion campaign machine. But I always assumed that conservatives would still turn out and do everything they can to support conservative candidates in down-ballot races. While I certainly will, I’m not so sure all conservative voters share my commitment. There’s no doubt a Romney nomination will "deflate" many conservatives, some of whom will withdraw from the process.
Despite Obama’s disastrous tenure, he will be tough to beat when you take into account his enormous campaign war chest and the sycophantic mainstream media who will be there every step of the way to assist in his re-election efforts. This would be so even if the Republican base was energized, and with Romney they will be anything but. Put this all together and Will’s warning is impossible to ignore. A Romney nomination will not only guarantee an Obama victory, but imperil Republican chances of retaking the Senate. I don’t know about you, but the prospect of at least two more years of a Democrat Senate led by Dingy Harry is not a pleasant one. Will closes with the following:
Republicans may have found their Michael Dukakis, a technocratic Massachusetts governor who takes his bearings from “data” (although there is precious little to support Romney’s idea that in-state college tuition for children of illegal immigrants is a powerful magnet for such immigrants) and who believes elections should be about (in Dukakis’s words) “competence,” not “ideology.” But what would President Romney competently do when not pondering ethanol subsidies that he forthrightly says should stop sometime before “forever”? Has conservatism come so far, surmounting so many obstacles, to settle, at a moment of economic crisis, for this?
I’d like to answer Will’s question in the negative, but that would be incorrect if Romney’s the nominee. The fact that Will, an undeniably influential member of the Republican intelligentsia, has finally seen the light with regard to Mitt Romney is encouraging. Better late than never, I guess. The question, though, is this: Will other members of the Republican establishment wake up in time and in sufficient numbers to prevent a Romney debacle in 2012? At the moment, I see no reason for optimism.