Mitt Romney was a moderate governor in Massachusetts with an unimpressive record of governance, who left office with an approval rating in the thirties, and whose signature achievement was a Hurricane Katrina style disaster for the state. Since that’s the case, it’s fair to ask what a Republican who’s not conservative and can’t even carry his own state brings to the table for GOP primary voters. The answer is always the same; Mitt Romney is supposed to be “the most electable” candidate. This is a baffling argument because many people just seem to assume it’s true, despite the plethora of evidence to the contrary.
1) People just don’t like Mitt Romney: The entire GOP primary process so far has consisted of Republican voters desperately trying to find an alternative to Mitt Romney. Doesn’t it say something that GOP primary voters have, at one time or another, preferred Donald Trump, Michele Bachmann, Rick Perry, Newt Gingrich, and now even Ron Paul (In Iowa) to Mitt Romney?
2) He’ll run weak in the Southern States: Barack Obama won North Carolina, Virginia, & Florida in 2008 and you can be sure that Obama will be targeting all three of those states again. This is a problem for Romney because he would certainly be less likely than either Gingrich or Perry to carry any of those states. Moderate Northern Republicans have consistently performed poorly in the South and Romney won’t be any exception. That was certainly the case in 2008 when both McCain and Huckabee dominated Romney in primaries across the South. Mitt didn’t win a single primary in a Southern state and although he finished second in Florida, he wasn’t even competitive in North Carolina or Virgina. Since losing any one of those states could be enough to hand the election to Obama in a close race, Mitt’s weakness there is no small matter.
3) All of Mitt’s primary advantages disappear in a general election: It’s actually amazing that Mitt Romney isn’t lapping the whole field by 50 points because he has every advantage. Mitt has been running for President longer than the other contenders. He has more money and a better organization than the other candidates. The party establishment and inside the beltway media is firmly in his corner. That’s why the other contenders have been absolutely savaged while Romney, like John McCain before him, has been allowed to skate through the primaries without receiving serious scrutiny.
Yet, every one of those advantages disappears if he becomes the nominee. Suddenly Obama will be the more experienced candidate in the race for the presidency. He will also have more money and a better organization than Mitt. Moreover, in a general election, the establishment and beltway media will be aligned against Romney, not for him. Suddenly, Romney will go from getting a free pass to being public enemy #1 for the entire mainstream media.
There are lot of issues with trying to run a candidate who doesn’t seem to have any core principles. It makes it impossible for his supporters to get excited about him, because you can’t fall in love with a weathervane. It also makes hard for independents to take anything he says on faith. Additionally, since politicians tend to be such liars anyway and you know Romney has no firm beliefs, it’s very easy for everyone to assume the worst. Democrats will assume Romney will be a right wing deathbeast. Republicans will assume that Romney will screw them over. Independents won’t know what to believe, which will make the hundreds of millions that Obama will spend on attack ads particularly effective. Ronald Reagan famously said the GOP needed “a banner of no pale pastels, but bold colors.” That’s particularly relevant when it comes to Mitt Romney, who has proven to be a pasty, grey pile of formless mush.