Saturday, February 11, 2012

Thoughts on Where the Republican Presidential Race Goes From Here

It Goes to Arizona and Michigan With Risks and Rewards for Mr. Romney

As the dust settles on a week when former Pennsylvania Senator Rick Santorum won three states by voter default (ie, no voters showed up to vote) the focus of the media will now be on the states of Michigan and Arizona.  Here are some things to look for.

Michigan is crucial for Mr. Romney.  This is just one of several states that Mr. Romney calls home, because he was raised there and because his father was Governor.  Mr. Romney won Michigan in 2008 and needs to win Michigan in 2012 to avoid bad press heading into the March Super Tuesday contests.

If Newt Gingrich continues to present the story that he will win the nomination look for Mr. Gingrich to  start to become the object of pity and the butt of jokes.  Note to Mr. Gingrich:  Stop talking about what you are going to do no the first day you become President, and start thinking about how to frame your concesson speech and how to pay off your campaign debts and still have money for Tiffany's.

The recent and continuing controversy over requiring health insurance plans to cover family planning even if the plan sponsor is a religious organization opposed to family planning is a controversy being pushed solely by the media and the Republican candidates.  Everyone should note that there is no public groundswell of opposition, the only opposition coming from church leaders who are understandably upset and from politicians who would promote religious differences for political gain.

Given that 98% of Catholics use some type of family planning that is contrary to the teachings of that religion, it is hard to see how this issue will resonate negatively with supporters of Mr. Obama, although press coverage has given it far more political importance than it actually has.

One of the unpublicized impacts of Mr. Santorum’s wins in Colorado, Minnesota and Missouri is that it will force Mr. Romney to pander even more to the radical right of his party.  Mr. Romney has shown no reluctance to do so in the past, hence the harsh rhetoric on immigration, and the increasing devotion to anti-abortion rights.  Unfortunately for Mr. Romney, while this may make him more acceptable to the Republican base, it makes him less acceptable to the general electorate.  He runs the risk of winning the battle (the nomination) and losing the war (the general election). 

Conservative Republicans may demand that Mr. Romney give the Vice Presidential nomination to Mr. Santorum in return for their support of Mr. Romney.  Such a move would make social issues like abortion and gay rights a centerpiece of the campaign, something Mr. Romney does not want.  He wants to focus on the economy and jobs, not whether or not gay marriage would lead to legalizing bestiality.

So Mr. Santorum as VP would further erode Mr. Romney’s chances, which the Republican base may not be all that concerned about.  Republicans can expect to do far better in coming years with Mr. Obama in the White House than with Republican control of government, because all those promises about cutting spending, cutting taxes and balancing the budget cannot be fulfilled.
If Mr. Romney loses in 2012 the radical Conservatives can say that he was not Conservative enough, and they can nominate someone in 2016 who is a complete radical. 

In a purely unscientific review, this Forum sees opposition to gay marriage and full and equal rights for gay and lesbians as something quickly receding in American culture. In just the last few years tolerance has increased substantially.  Republicans like Mr. Romney and Mr. Santorum are behind the curve on this issue, and that could prove decisive in the 2012 election.  Mr. Obama so far has been able to stay with his opposition to full marriage rights for gay and lesbian couples, but he may not be able to hold that position throughout the campaign.

On immigration Mr. Romney will have to take an even harsher tone to win Arizona than he has already taken.  That will serve him well in that state’s primary, where Republicans are highly anti-immigration, but it could also serve to deliver the state to Mr. Obama in the fall election, where Republicans could lose 100%  or more of the Hispanic vote in that state.

The largest wild card in the coming election is whether or not Israel launches an attack on Iranian nuclear facilities.  If that happens, disregard everything that has been said in this election, including all of the above.  As for the political impact of such an event, the always popular but seldom used “We don’t know” is the proper response.

1 comment:

  1. "...where Republicans could lose 100% or more of the Hispanic vote in that state."

    If only this were possible...