Friday, March 02, 2007

Conservative Unease

I'm not sure what to make of the continuing conservative unease about Mitt Romney's candidacy. Especially since none of the three leading candidates seems to be inspiring the conservative base. Consider, for instance:
  • The Politico reports on "a mood of gloom" at CPAC, and cites the dissatisfaction of grass-roots organizers like Citizens United President David Bossie (“I’m disenchanted, I’m disenfranchised, I’m just dissed") and the Eagle Forum's Phyllis Schlafly (the three GOP front-runners are "all equally unacceptable").
  • The New York Daily News is reporting that "Some[CPAC] attendees were handing out "Rudy McRomney" stickers with a red line through the middle - signifying conservative unease with Giuliani, Romney and Sen. John McCain."
  • The Washington Times is reporting that 2008 Hopeful James Gilmore will break Reagan's 11th commandment and "become the first Republican presidential contender to say publicly that the three top-ranked party candidates are phony conservatives."
Everyone seems to agree that this unrest leaves the door wide-open for a candidate with less baggage, but no one seems to know just who that might be. Newt Gingrich is the only name that keeps coming up, but he's said he won't announce his intentions until September, leaving something of a vacuum until then.

So where does this leave us? Romney's campaign seems to think this dissatisfaction gives him a prime opportunity to win over conservatives on the sincerity of his "conversion." It seems like a logical proposition, the trouble is that Romney doesn't seem to be winning that many people over. The Politico wonders whether Romney is simply a "bad fit" for the Republican party right now, citing the fact that he consistently comes in fourth behind the unannounced Gingrich in national polls, while Giuliani, who critics (myself included) contended couldn't be nominated, is building a sizeable lead among likely GOP primary voters. This in spite of the fact that more and more voters are learning of his liberal social views, something most pundits thought would be Giuliani's death kneel. Early reports are that Giuliani won the Spartanburg, South Carolina straw poll yesterday, indicating that his viability extends beyond the Northeast and West. A lot of conservatives, including George Will and Bob Novak, now say they see Giuliani and a viable primary candidate. Even staunch social conservative Rick Santorum didn't rule out supporting Giuliani (saying that he would NOT endors was McCain).

I think it's too early to draw any strong conclusions from all of this, but it seems as though many voters are signaling their willingness to vote for a candidate who is strong on security and is "electable" over a candidate who is perhaps a better ideological fit.

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