After Will sent me a link with Ann Romney’s almost “let them eat cake” moment, he and I got to thinking about where his campaign goes from here.
We all had a lot of fun watching the Santorum, Gingrich, Perry, and Cain campaigns collapse on themselves, watching how they went from breathing fire about fighting this until the bitter end to shuffling away, tail between their legs. It was great entertainment, and something unique to the primary season. No matter how bad things get for Romney (and right now the betting money is 2:1 against Romney), he can’t duck out. He can’t say “okay we had a good run, but I’m gonna concede to my opponent.” He’s carrying the flag of the party and is duty-bound to go through to November.
Right now, he’s in the worst position possible. If there’s one thing Mitt Romney needed in July of 2012, it was for the race to be either neck and neck, or for him to be decently ahead. The GOP knows that Barack Obama is a magnetic speaker along the lines of Reagan and Kennedy. This September will mark eight years since his landmark speech at the 2004 Democratic convention when he first made his big splash on the national scene. A junior senator that was relatively unknown gave the keynote address that was good enough that Al Franken said it was the only speech in the entire convention that he wouldn’t want to have changed. Debating Barack Obama is like playing tennis with a wall. The only way to end it is to not actually hit it to him.
And it’s not like he’s behind for standard political reasons. It’s not that he’s supporting unpopular ideas or struggling against an anti-Republican political climate. He’s floundering because he is ever Democratic stereotype wrapped up in a red sheet. He’s a teetotalling, non-Christian, Massachusetts wealthy elite from a state with gay marriage and socialized medicine who’s incapable of saying things without sounding like a cartoon stereotype of rich snobs. His myriad tax havens and offshore accounts and refusal to give up his tax returns only makes him look that much worse.
So right now, Mittens has two choices in front of him: keep on trying to appeal to the base a la John McCain or take the blue baton and run like a motherfucker. The odds are he’ll do the former, pick a running mate that’s a FOX darling but with more heft than Sarah Palin. Think your Rand Paul and Paul Ryan types who are kinda dull but represent the conservative movement well.
But let’s imagine that he doesn’t. Let’s imagine that Mitt Romney does something insane and hooks up with a RINO for the election. He lands on the ticket with an Olympia Snowe, Charlie Crist, or even Ron Goddamn Paul. He embraces his time in Massachusetts, doesn’t hide his wealth, and doesn’t try to appeal to the base. Instead, he takes the (relatively safe) bet that the far-right won’t just abandon him and let Obama win, and instead spends the bulk of his time trying to burrow into the center and center/left, specifically the libertarian movement of social liberalism with economic “free marketism”. His outsourcing and tax havens would almost make him a poster boy for it.
This is a scenario Mitt could actually win. He could, in theory, etch away pretty hard at the younger voters, on the fence voters, and still existing racist Democrats while resting easy knowing that the odds of the Tea Party letting that Communist Foreigner Negro (CFN) win are slim to none.
So let’s say he wins. Romney/Paul or Romney/Hutchison or something wins office. What will have happened? In one fell swoop, the Tea Party will die. Whereas losses only fuel the fire by continuing to paint them as an underdog who needs to defeat the tyranny of socialism, if the party itself not only moves toward the center, but also wins, suddenly the TP loses all relevance. The far left will be more inclined to work with the new administration, and even if Teabaggers continue to try and work their way into the legislature, they’ll have far less actual pull.
The media would have no choice but to be behind the guy. MSNBC would have their liberals assailing him, but the network by and large won’t hate a corporatist, and for all of FOX’s yammering they’ll rally behind a GOP president no matter what. It’s not inconceivable that he’d enjoy some impressively high approval ratings. Would his presidency be as beneficial to the United States as an Obama one? Of course not. At least not for the duration of his term. But it’s not outside of the realm of possibility that 10, 20, 30 years down the road our two parties are more progressive and more like their “forward thinking but principled” roots.
A caveat: I’m in no way endorsing Mitt Romney for president. This is just a rumination about what would happen if he was suddenly infected with a vial of common sense, integrity, and political intellect. I’m talking more of what Mitt Romney could be, not what he is and will be or will do. Barack Obama 2012, y’all.