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Mitt Romney’s slog to the Republican nomination

As a candidate for the GOP nomination, or even should he run as an independent later this fall, Congressman Ron Paul has virtually no prospects when it comes to his quest for the Presidency. He is simply too far out there in his own political world to ever capture much of the mainstream vote. However, last Tuesday, right here in Virginia, he got his largest percentage of the vote, in any Republican primary, ever. Pitted one-on-one with Mitt Romney, opposed by most of the state’s Republican establishment, including the Governor, the quirky Texan got 41.5% of the vote. He even managed to win the 3rd Congressional district and with that three delegates. Of course, as my Grandfather used to say, that and a dime will get you a cup of coffee. However,

it’s not without significance.

Romney was supposed to win Virginia’s primary going away. Most projections were that Romney would win in excess of 70% of the vote. What the results showed however, and something which Governor McDonnell and the Mitt Romney don’t want to say, is that a lot of GOP voters aren’t happy with the former Massachusetts Governor as their prospective nominee. In fact, he has yet to score a real knock-out punch in any of the major primaries. In Michigan, where he grew up and where the family name is still fondly remembered, Romney only managed to defeat Rick Santorum by a slim margin. In Ohio, one of the make or break primaries, the margin was equally small. And going into several southern primaries Romney is sure to take some more losses.

When questioned, even GOP voters who cast their ballot for Romney, only rarely said they did so with much enthusiasm. The nomination process has been tough on Romney. While primaries sometimes strengthen candidates, as President Obama’s long running quest for the Democratic nomination did for his campaign in 2008, the Romney campaign, if anything, seems weaker. The digs, the attacks, many of which have stuck, have given the Democrats plenty of fodder for the fall while at the same time have exposed Romney’s weaknesses as a candidate.

Perhaps Romney’s weakest point, and something that will make him just as vulnerable against Obama as it has made him against his conservative foes in the GOP nomination fight are his ever changing positions on core issues. He has been for abortion and now he is against it. He has been supportive of gay marriage, and now, yes, you guessed it, he is against. As for health care, this is the most fascinating Romney transformation of all. He crafted the first mandatory health insurance program in the nation. In my Democrat’s mind it was an admirable effort in dealing with America’s crisis in health care. But wait, after making this his hallmark issue as Governor of Massachusetts he is now opposed to it. There is an image in my mind of the first debate on domestic policy issues, when the President confidently turns to his opponent, and thanks Governor Romney for being the guiding light in developing Obamacare.

As for Romney’s performance on the stump, after years in public office, he has never really managed to get comfortable in handling those impromptu moments. His gaffes are legendary. His discomfort in these moments is easy to see. No doubt they are already part of a blooper reel that the Democrats will enjoy playing at their convention. There is his comment, rather ludicrous, that he too has feared the pink slip, and that oh yes, corporations are people too. There are more. And the best are those when he tries to explain his changes in position. Artful they’re not.

Now, still a ways out from the nomination, Romney has played a card, that given the competence of his campaign so far, deserves some credit. He has said that mathematically there is no way that his opponents can catch up to him and so the smart thing for them to do, in the name of the party, is to drop out. It’s a clever tactic. However, while he may be right, his opponents, particularly Santorum, are committed, and others, still hopeful that the convention may convene with no clear winner, are likely to keep on fighting.

There have been few times in the history of politics, in such a ripe political moment, that a party with so much going for its cause has seemed so ready to nominate such a weak candidate. Usually, the feeble candidates, those sure to get swamped in the fall, are nominated in hopeless years. Barry Goldwater, George McGovern, and Walter Mondale come to mind. This year, the Republicans, going into the election with a host of issues at their back, seem to be going in the opposite direction.

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