Dear Leader Rush says Romney not conservative, drives wedge deeper into GOP
I've been arguing again and again recently (along with many others) that Romney is no sure thing, no matter what you might be hearing. He appears to have much of the Republican Party establishment coalescing behind him, but conservatives -- the grassroots base that largely decides the primaries, along with conservative elites who reject the moderation (relatively speaking) of the establishment and who have effectively constructed a new GOP mainstream well out on the right -- aren't buying it (or him). His support over the past several months has remained consistent but low for a supposed frontrunner, in the 20-25 percent range. It's not clear if his ceiling is much higher than that. And Republicans are clearly looking for an alternative, any viable, credible alternative, and have been doing so all along, whether it was Bachmann or Perry or now, apparently, Cain. Romney may yet win the nomination, but it would likely be by default, with the conservative, anti-Romney vote divided.
The media, which jumped on the Bachmann and Perry bandwagons, are currently touting Romney as the likely eventual winner of the nomination, particularly after Perry's many stumbles. (They're not really buying Cain as a viable, credible candidate. Yet.) But Romney has a great deal yet to overcome, and he faces obstacles that may be insurmountable. One such obstacle, again, is that conservatives just don't like him. Some even outright loathe him and will do whatever they can to knock him down, and out. Generally, Republicans go for predictable presidential nominations, with the next-in-line anointed without much of a protracted fight. (Bush I in '88, Dole in '96, McCain in '08. Even Bush II in '00, with the establishment (and conservatives generally) throwing their support behind him.) But things are different now, what with the party having moved so far to the right and with the Tea Party a potent force at the grassroots level. It isn't enough just to have the party bigwigs and financiers behind you. You need to appeal deeply to the mob, to have right-wing ideological purity and the approval of the Bolsheviks who determine whether you're in or out, a saint or a heretic.
And, of course, it helps a great deal to have the approval of Dear Leader Rush, who remains enormously powerful within the party. And one of Romney's biggest problems is that Limbaugh just doesn't like him:
Romney is not a conservative. He's not, folks. You can argue with me all day long on that, but he isn't. What he has going for him is that he's not Obama and that he is doing incredibly well in the debates because he's done it a long time. He's very seasoned. He never makes a mistake, and he's going to keep winning these things if he never makes a mistake. It's that simple. But I'm not personally ready to settle on anybody yet -- and I know that neither are most of you, and I also know that most of you do not want this over now, before we've even had a single primary! All we've had are straw votes. You know that the Republican establishment's trying to nail this down and end it. You know that that's happening, and I know that you don't want that to happen, and neither do I.
Do you really think Republicans will choose a nominee of whom Limbaugh does not approve? Romney can hope that Limbaugh changes his mind and accepts Romney as suitably conservative, though he can only do that, only appeal to Limbaugh, by running further and further to the right, endangering whatever general election prospects he has -- not to mention looking more and more like he's just pandering to conservatives, reducing his chances of picking up conservative support. (Conservatives want the real thing, a genuine conservative, someone they have no doubts about. That means Perry, should be able to recover from his current malaise, not Romney. And of course it also means Cain, as we're seeing in the polls.)
The opportunity to beat Obama may ultimately shift Limbaugh's focus away from ideology and towards electability, particularly if no one on the right is able to unite the conservative, anti-Romney vote. But Limbaugh's basic assessment, that Romney just isn't a conservative, is a huge blow. Conservatives don't want Romney in 2012, and, as Limbaugh indicates, they'll continue to search for an alternative, holding Romney's support down. And if Romney does win, they're not exactly going to be enthusiastic about it, potentially holding Republican turnout down.