The National Republican Party establishment is beginning to pull out all the stops in order to thwart former Speaker Newt Gingrich and make Mitt Romney their presidential nominee. In modern times, the Republican Party has maintained a tension between its moderate patrician establishment and its populist conservative/Tea Party/libertarian factions. That tension has been higher and is especially evident in the inability of Mr. Romney to rise above 30% of the GOP primary and caucus vote. The Anybody-But-Romney field of mostly conservative candidates has collectively garnered 70%-75% of voter support. Polls are beginning to show that may change in Florida.
Interestingly, the two men dispatched to prop up Romney in Florida are Senator John McCain and former Senator Bob Dole. Both men are former presidential candidates who lost to centrist Democrats, Barack Obama and Bill Clinton, respectively. Both men were the presidential nominees next in line who when their turns came, also earned the opprobrium of the conservatives in their party.
Since Barry Goldwater in 1964 and Ronald Reagan in 1980, the Republican establishment seemed bent on keeping control of the party in their hands. After the Reagan Revolution, the patrician establishment regained control when Vice President George H.W. Bush succeeded to the presidency. But they lost the White House to a centrist Democrat in 1992 and 1996. “Compassionate” conservative George W. Bush defeated liberal Democrats in 2000 and 2004.
I hope you are starting to see the picture that is developing. Each time the Republicans nominate a conservative (Reagan and Bush 43), they win the White House. Each time they nominate a moderate (Bush 41, Dole and McCain), they lose [there was a generational factor as well]. Conversely, each time the Democrats nominate a liberal (Carter, Mondale, Dukakis, Gore and Kerry), they lose to the conservative Republican nominee.
If the Republican establishment succeeds in making Mitt Romney their standard-bearer, they will more than likely lose. In his creased jeans, gingham shirt and Sperry Topsiders, Romney looks like the prototypical Connecticut Yankee. He appears emotionally distant and incapable of the fiery passion that excites conservatives, Tea Party activists, and the so-called Reagan Democrats.
On the other hand, if Newt Gingrich can campaign beyond Florida, he may coalesce the conservative movement in the remaining Southern primaries and Western caucuses, he may snatch defeat from Romney’s clutches. Gingrich is fiery theater, rage and hyperbole. But he, like Goldwater, will lose to President Obama, who [like President Johnson] will better define his character and core values.
I pick President Obama to defeat either one of the Republican frontrunners in November. The Republican primary has exposed both Romney and Gingrich as men whose character and values change with the political winds and tomorrow’s audience. As Huffington Post columnist Robert Creamer points out, “Obama has remained determined and unflappable in the face of the toughest economic and political environment in sixty years.”
Americans will decide if they want to go back to the future with Romney/Gingrich or go into a future that restores the American promise without sacrificing any of its children, character and ideals. A second Obama term will not be saddled by war, inflation and civil strife. The prospect of peace and renewed economic opportunity for all will trump empty Republican rhetoric.