Friday, August 19, 2011

Romney Has No Path To Nomination

I think it's shocking that the media considers Mitt Romney a frontrunner in the Republican nomination battle. I don't mean this is the Jon Stewart-style "They're can't be a front runner when no one has voted." I mean that the fundamentals of the Romney campaign are incredibly weak.

Romney's perceived strength is that he is running the only fairly moderate campaign (besides John Huntsman, who is hardly running a campaign at this point). He has the entire center of the Republican party to himself. Tim Pawlenty was the only other serious contender for the middle (serious contender in that he was focused on that segment of the ideological specturm; he polled miserably). Romney clearly has the support of the Republican establishment, including the traditional conservative media. The feeding frenzy around Rick Perry over the last three days in the conservative legacy media and blog world has surprised right-watchers. Bachmann has received less opprobrium for similar morsels, probably because the conservative establishment never considered her a serious candidate (for a possible explanation see: gender). There's also the numerous pictures of Perry appearing to fire a gun in the air in the middle of a city.<

The Republican field is crowded far to Romney's crazy flank with no one to Romney's center. Huntsman is probably a little more conservative than Romney, but has no profile at this point. That should be good news for Romney. Conventional wisdom about the Republican party-as-stool holds that it has three legs: business interests, puritan social voters, and civil libertarians.

The Republican primary fight so far has been fought primarily among candidates among the latter two 'legs.' Bachmann, Perry, Santorum, Herman Cain, and Newt Gingrich all have supporters in both camps. They simultaneously argue that government involvement in personal lives is always bad, but that it should aggressively enforce conservative social ideas. The crush to the right in the primary field has left Romney alone with a wide ideological spectrum to appeal to.

The problem for Romney is that few Republican primary voters occupy that spectrum. Romney consistently places at 20% in the national GOP primary polling. His support is remarkably stable, and doesn't seem to be buffeted by other candidates' exits and entrances. Romney is in a similar position as Ron Paul. He has a group of core supporters, but little upside outside of that group. His voters likely won't turn out for another candidate, and the other candidates' supporters won't vote for Romney.

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