The GOP’s Romney Problem

April 12th, 2011 at 1:14 am David Frum | 47 Comments |

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So here’s my Romney problem, triggered by yesterday’s formal announcement (hem, exploration).

I think Mitt Romney would make a fine president. If economic conditions remain depressed into 2012, he could well defeat President Obama.

But if the economy recovers, then the normal rule of American politics would expect the incumbent to win even if the GOP nominated the second coming of Teddy Roosevelt.

And while Romney would be a fine candidate to win with, he would be a very dangerous candidate for Republicans to lose with. If Romney should be nominated and defeated, it’s easy to imagine Republicans deciding that the route to victory is to do Tea Party 2.0 in 2014 and 2016 – doubling down on the extremism of 2009-2010 long past their sell-by date.


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47 Comments so far ↓

  • Danny_K

    I think you’re right. If you’re going to lose might as well lose with somebody entertaining, like Bachmann. Romney and Gingrich make me feel sorry for conservatives: they have to pretend to like these guys, even though they’re totally opportunistic. It’s like a single mom who gets married to a rich guy she doesn’t like so her kids can have a nice house.

  • mlindroo

    Good observation! If Obama defeats the GOP next year, the losing candidate had better be Tim Pawlenty (=Mr.Full Spectrum Conservative) or perhaps Rick Santorum. The “Bush 41/Dole/McCain were RINOs so of course they lost!” argument is getting tiresome … Republicans will learn nothing until they elect a Tea Party approved leader who then immediately loses to Barack Hussein Obama.

    MARCU$

  • gmckee1985

    I’m mostly conservative, except for a few social issues..but the way the hardcore conservatives act like everytime the GOP loses is because the candidate was a “RINO” are ridiculous.

    Romney would be a good candidate, and a good president. People need to come to their senses and become more pragmatic. A lot of these goobers like Bachmann, Palin, etc are touted by people who should know better….

  • heap

    considering the other options are largely ‘choose a teabag whacko this time instead’…is there really that much difference?

  • hisgirlfriday

    If Romney should be nominated and defeated, it’s easy to imagine Republicans deciding that the route to victory is to do Tea Party 2.0 in 2014 and 2016 – doubling down on the extremism of 2009-2010 long past their sell-by date.

    And if Romney is nominated and wins, the Tea Party will claim all the credit for defeating Obama and be so emboldened they double down on extremism anyway.

  • Infidel753

    The gist of this argument seems to be “Don’t nominate a sane candidate, because if he loses, the sane faction of the Republicans will be discredited.”

    On that basis, the party should nominate members of the loon faction every time, or at least not nominate a sane candidate until they feel victory is certain.

    Thing is, while victory is seldom certain, it’s usually possible. If Romney would be dangerous to lose with, think how dangerous a Bachmann or Palin would be to win with.

    As a major party, the Republican party has a responsibility to nominate a candidate who would be competent to lead the country if elected.

    The gist of the argument is not borne out historically, anyway. The Republicans nominated the moderate McCain in 2008, a year when the Republican was almost certain to lose (even without the disastrous choice of Palin for VP), and his defeat did indeed energize the loon faction, but the sane faction has by no means conceded the game.

    • ottovbvs

      The gist of this argument seems to be “Don’t nominate a sane candidate, because if he loses, the sane faction of the Republicans will be discredited.”

      In the narrow context of the 2012 election it is, but that doesn’t mean that it’s necessarily wrong. I think the GOP finds itself in much the same situation as it did in 1964. Although Obama isn’t in such a strong position as LBJ he’s going to be fairly hard to beat next year. He’s obviously intelligent, competent, prudent and likeable and absent a major setback the economy should be running strongly by the end of this year. Faced with a likely defeat the Republicans can respond to their gut as they did in ’64 and nominate someone like Gingrich or play safe with a Romney. In ’64 they went with the gut and I have a feeling they’ll do the same again but it’s still a parlor game isn’t it?

  • Smargalicious

    I think anyone would be better than the anti-American Kenyan we have now.

    Sheesh.

  • MurrayAbraham

    IMHO, it’s rather Romney’s GOP problem.

  • Primrose

    I think Mr. Frum is just looking at the future and seeing dark, dark clouds for Republicans. He is so desperate to bring his party back to sanity, so increasingly pessimistic about it happening, I’m sure it gives him bad dreams and sleepless nights.

    So,though I’m a Dem, I feel your pain, Mr. Frum. I feel you pain. No, really, it gives me bad dreams too when I think just “who is slouching toward Bethlehem.”

  • StarSpangledSpanner

    Shock horror! Romney is half………………..Black. In fact he is Oprah’s half brother! You don’t believe me? A picture never lies.

    H/T Wonkette

  • chicago_guy

    The opening sentence is missing a phrase; it should read “Mitt Romney – at least the Mitt Romney who used to be governor or Massachusetts – would be a fine President.”

    The version of Mitt Romney that’s out there now is a spineless joke. He’s not even man enough to stand up and claim credit for one of the smartest and bravest things he’s ever done – pass a comprehensive health care bill in his state that made his state a modern model of public/private partnership. The fact that he’s so afraid of the Tea Party wing of his own party indicates to me that he’s a boy, not a man. A talented boy, in some regards (though his turnarounds at Bain usually seemed to involve cutting a lot of other people’s jobs), but not much of a man.

    I might not be thrilled by how easily Obama has compromised, but I see his willingness to allow the other side to get some wins as the mark of a grownup. When I look at how Romney has debased himself by trying to dumb himself down – rather than calling out the far right asshats, as he should be doing – it doesn’t make me feel very confident in his ability to lead at all.

  • JimBob

    There’s nothing extreme about the Tea Party Frum. You on the other hand are a radical NeoCon

  • talkradiosucks.com

    Have to agree with both Frum and chicago_guy.

    Frum is correct about his analysis. If the GOP goes with someone moderate and they lose, the pressure will be that much harder the next time to go with a fringe tea “party” (really just the hard-core conservative base, not a party) nutjob candidate. Ideally they should nominate one of the fringe whackjobs this time, get hammered by Obama, and then maybe it will start to dawn on the powers that be — meaning, talk radio and Fox News — that you do indeed need part of the middle to actually win.

    chicago_guy is correct that Romney is a spineless chameleon who will morph into whatever is necessary to win. McCain did exactly the same thing — the 2008 version of that man was unrecognizable to someone like myself who used to like and respect him. What sort of actual president he would be, who knows?

  • Watusie

    Romney has a well-documented history as a job-destroying, asset-stripping corporate raider who abuses off-shore tax havens. It won’t come up in the primaries becasue your modern Republican doesn’t necessarily think those are bad things. However, if he is the nominee he is absolutely going to get the bark stripped off him in the general.

    The argument that Romney understands business, especially small business, is as ludicrous as Herman Cain’s claim to the same. He knows financial engineering. That is all.

  • CentristNYer

    Frum: “…even if the GOP nominated the second coming of Teddy Roosevelt.”

    Dream on.

    There’s no one currently under consideration who’s even qualified to shine his boots. Furthermore, like Nixon, Reagan and virtually every other Republican president before them, Roosevelt would be denounced as a RINO by today’s GOP base.

  • Frumplestiltskin

    The extremists don’t have the money so even if Romney loses big money will go to who can win.
    I think David is overestimating the loon base, especially for Presidential elections, the numbers simply are not there and the money sure as hell isn’t.

  • DFL

    Romney’s the sort of chameleon that both the left and the right hates. He deserves political obliteration.

  • UAFAN

    David:

    It the GOP maybe better off losing 2012 with Tim Pawlenty and it could get even worst now that Donald Trump may end up running for President as an Independent.

  • talkradiosucks.com

    Donald Trump is never going to run as an independent.

    • UAFAN

      In the last five Presidential Elections an Independent candidate has always emerge to play a role in the Presidential election. Maybe Trump won’t run as an Independent but somebody will and could make an impact in the 2012 election.

  • TAZ

    100 Agree, if they don’t do a Tea Party this year already.

  • Scary Thought of the Day: Even Greater Teabaggers | Library Grape

    [...] Frum makes some sense here: So here’s my Romney problem, triggered by yesterday’s formal announcement (hem, [...]

  • NRA Liberal

    Ain’t too much daylight between the real Romney and Obama.

  • Frumplestiltskin

    NRA Liberal // Apr 12, 2011 at 12:32 pm

    Ain’t too much daylight between the real Romney and Obama.

    And the sad thing is you are probably right. Romney is a fraud for no reason since the real Romney could get some Democratic support.

  • Ana Gama

    Mr. Frum:

    How’s that ‘birther quarantine’ going for you? Looks like The Donald keeps moving up, and now Bachmann is treading close to that territory, too.

  • Ana Gama

    This is your real Romney Problem:

    Multiple Choice Mitt – On Every Side of Every Issue

    http://multiplechoicemitt.com/

  • talkradiosucks.com

    “And the sad thing is you are probably right. Romney is a fraud for no reason since the real Romney could get some Democratic support.”

    It’s not for no reason — he knows the party is overrun with kooks and is trying to get the nomination. If and when he gets it, he’ll tack hard left so fast the phony “tea party” will be howling.

    • Ana Gama

      he’ll tack hard left so fast

      Certainly you mean BACK to the LEFT where he started from years ago, don’t you? What will that get him? He will then be Mitt the FlipFlopFlip. It would be too confusing for anyone to take seriously.

  • Frumplestiltskin

    TRS, maybe I am naive but I don’t think most rank and file Republicans are teabaggers, he doesn’t have to get all the support, if he survives the first few rounds it will come down to him and whoever else is around, lets say Pawlenty. Who the hell will get excited about Pawlenty? And if not Pawlenty it is likely to be a whackjob who will get the 30% teabag support.

    I think Romney is playing it wrong, he can’t outcrazy the crazy, so why try?

  • medinnus

    Actually, its his ability to “flip-flop” on issues that would earn him my vote over Obama in 2012; he seems the most sane of the GOP running, and I think once freed from the bullpucky of Primary season, he might actually do things which make sense – like RomneyCare.

    Or not. But Obama has proven himself to be a feckless coward.

    • ottovbvs

      “Feckless coward”

      Examples?

      • medinnus

        His statements about closing Gitmo. His refusal to do so for political blowback reason.

        His condemnation of the Bush administration eavesdropping. His refusal to end them – indeed, to expand them – because once he was in the chair, he LIKED dictatorial powers.

        His promise to investigate alleged (now publicly confessed) war crimes in the Bush WH administration. His refusal to live up to that promise AND his legal obligations for political blowback reasons.

        Do I need to go on? The intrusions of the Patriot Act, the abuse of NSL, et cetera, ad nauseaum – all of which he condemned and then refused to address because of his political cowardice.

        Feckless. Coward.

  • JimBob

    The country cannot stand four more years of Barry Hussein. I didn’t think anyone could be worse than Bush, but Hussein has proved me wrong.

    The man has no idea what makes the economy work. His budgets are poison for the long term health of this country and frankly I don’t think he gives a damn. He wants to bring the whole thing down so he can remake it in his sordid image.

    Hoping Rand Paul jumps in the race. He’s smart quick on his feet and is a good debater. He would be able to bash Barry Hussein for launching another war and just being a continuation of the Bush Adm. Also it would fun watching Frum write article after article explaining why he’s supporting Barry Hussein.

  • medinnus

    @ JimBob

    Your rantings have no credibility here. “Barry Hussein” indeed.

    • JimBob

      Barry Hussein is his name. Do you have a problem with his name?? I could call him the Chicago Street Hustler if it makes you feel better.

    • mbilinsky

      Thanks for reinforcing stereotypes of people named JimBob.

  • jjv

    I think the GOP’s Romney problem is grasping at coreless chameleons who bend in the wind on key issues and the fact that the Left can attack Mormonism without cease or political correctness. He lost to John McCain after spending a gazillion dollars.

    Also, the assumption that 2009-2010 republicans are “extreme” in any meaninful sense is an usupported assertion. The same is true of the Tea Party. Anti-tax sentiment has been strong in the U.S. since 1774. I don’t think its sell by date is any time soon.

    • ottovbvs

      Also, the assumption that 2009-2010 republicans are “extreme” in any meaninful sense is an usupported assertion.

      Unsupported to those unable to use the evidence of their own eyes no doubt.

      • JimBob

        I’ll tell you what extreme is Otto. Running a 1.6 trillion dollar deficit. Now that’s extreme.

  • Moderate

    If the problem is that GOP primary voters are mucking things up, then fix that problem, instead of shelving your party’s best candidates.

    There are so many problems with running a loon in 2012:

    1) We’d probably lose the Presidential race, as well as a lot of down-ballot races in competitive districts. We could lose the House.

    2) The far right isn’t going to learn the right lesson from defeat. Jim DeMint has said that he’d rather have 30 “true” Republicans in the Senate than 60 “big tent” Republicans.

    3) It’s going to really discourage moderate Republicans, the ones most likely to give up on the GOP if they perceive things as hopeless.

    Young educated voters, who might be inclined towards the GOP, will forswear the party if its future is the party of Sarah Palin and Michele Bachmann (right now we’re hoping the Trump/Palin/Bachmann madness is a temporary phase brought about by the recession and lack of Republican leadership). Republicans would not only lose a generation of voters – they would lose a generation of politicians, staffers, journalists, and intellectuals.

    4) Tea Partiers are followers, not leaders, and they would have had little influence in 2010 without the organizing prowess of Fox News. The GOP must lead them towards a realistic conservatism. Republicans could accomplish this by promoting sane candidates and telling Fox News “lay off the conspiracies, start running positive reports on our preferred candidates, or else we’re cutting off your access and we’re going to arrange an advertiser pullout.”

    But, most importantly:

    5) We might win. And President Bachmann/President Palin/President Trump would be unequivocally bad for America and for the world. America is more important than any political party.

    • ottovbvs

      If the problem is that GOP primary voters are mucking things up, then fix that problem,

      So what do you propose? Disenfranchising the party activists? Unfortunately your entire comment is based on the premise that the majority of Republican voters are moderate. They’re not. It may be 50/50 in some states but in most the moderates are a distinct minority. And it’s not a problem confined to the Republican heartland in the south. Take California, a blue state where the Republican party has effectively marginalized itself. In the 2010 election in spite of a trend to Republicans across the country it did not win a single statewide office. And California in terms of demographic make up probably looks like the future of America. Your other premise is that the GOP generally is fit to govern at the moment. It’s not, as the ludicrous Ryan proposals make entirely clear, not to mention the disastrous Bush tenure from which they appear to have learned nothing. At the moment if you want reasonably competent management of the country the Democrats are the only option.

      • Moderate

        ottovbvs:

        So what do you propose? Disenfranchising the party activists?

        There are ways of achieving better (more moderate/electable) outcomes that don’t disenfranchise anyone. For example, the Democrats introduced super-delegates in the early 1980s as a reaction to the disproportionate sway of liberal voters. Another easy change would be opening up all primaries to Independent voters (the California GOP recently switched from a closed primary to an open one); it won’t have much effect, but it’s a step in the right direction and it’s better than nothing.

        At the moment if you want reasonably competent management of the country the Democrats are the only option.

        Obviously I disagree. Mitt Romney, Jon Huntsman, and Mitch Daniels are all highly competent candidates who I prefer to Barack Obama. But even placing aside my disagreement, this is an irrelevant criticism. I’m addressing Republicans to focus on reforming the primary, and you’re talking about general elections.

        Although I’d prefer a moderate Republican like Mitt Romney to win the presidency, that’s for voters to decide. When it comes to primaries, though, it’s not the case that we must defer to voters. For most of American history, it was parties themselves rather than activists that determined the candidates.

  • nuser

    Mr. Romney ,do you think Sarah Palin is qualified to be president?
    Mitt Romney: “Sure I do , sure I do.”