George Will thinks Republicans have little chance of winning the White House this year.
If nominated, Mitt Romney and Rick Santorum might not cause such subtraction. Both are conservatives, although of strikingly different stripes. Neither, however, seems likely to be elected. Neither has demonstrated, or seems likely to develop, an aptitude for energizing a national coalition that translates into 270 electoral votes.
Because of Romney and Santorum seem, to Will anyway, unlikely to win the general election, Will suggests that Republicans should focus on retaining the House and taking control of the Senate.
If either is nominated, conservatives should vote for him. But suppose the accumulation of evidence eventually suggests that the nomination of either would subtract from the long-term project of making conservatism intellectually coherent and politically palatable. If so, there would come a point when, taking stock of reality, conservatives turn their energies to a goal much more attainable than, and not much less important than, electing Romney or Santorum president. It is the goal of retaining control of the House and winning control of the Senate.
I'm perplexed by Will's, "if either is nominated..." Well, just who the hell else is going to be nominated? Let's get real here. Even if neither Romney nor Santorum reaches the magic number in pledged delegates by the time of the convention, is it realistic to think that there's going to be a white knight after this much campaign scrutiny of the remaining Republican candidates?
Republican voters will heed the lesson of Rick Perry. Entering the fray at a relatively late date he quickly showed that he was overmatched and unready for the heightened level of competition. After charging to a huge popularity lead in the polling, rookie gaffes sank him like a stone. He abandoned his campaign without winning a single delegate. Republican voters are in no mood for a repeat performance by some other fresh untested candidate, tossed in against Barack Obama in the general election at the last minute. We have four battle tested candidates. One of them is going to be the Republican candidate. Romney is most likely to be that candidate. Santorum is next likeliest.
With regard to retaining the House and winning the Senate, what in the name of God does Will think? Republicans are going to vote for downstream candidates and not vote for the top of the ticket? Just how is that supposed to work?
What set of voters is Will listening to? Nearly everybody I talk to, and everybody that I hear about in Republican focus groups, says the same thing. In the final analysis Republicans are going to support the Republican candidate. Whoever that candidate is, he will get their support and their votes. The Republican who says he'll stay home if his candidate doesn't win the nomination is so rare as to be virtually non-existent.
Predicting an Obama victory based on his recent rise in public approval is an exercise in futility — or if you are a Democrat, in wishful thinking. We are eons away from the general election. The conservative Super PACs haven't begun to fight. There is a ton of money sitting on the sidelines waiting for the main event. It's true that the money is on both sides, but on their side Republican candidates have public support on issues. Because of his assault on the constitution through ObamaCare, Barack Obama is perceived to be a threat to American liberty. Defeating him is not just a casual preference.
A key indicator is the amount of Tea Party support for Mitt Romney. He may not have the majority in Tea Party support, but what he has is significant. This support represents a large swath of the Republican electorate who support Romney, not because he is the ideal candidate — there ain't one this year — but because they believe he is the most likely candidate to defeat Barack Obama. If Romney wins the nomination, don't expect the rest of the Tea Party to sit home and sulk. Support will be united behind him. It will be a hard fought general election campaign, but the Tea Party will make its presence felt. These are the folks — we are the folks — who were largely behind the drubbing Democrats received in 2010. We haven't suddenly lost interest. Our money and our support will align behind the Republican candidate, whoever he may be.
I'll be surprised if 2012 doesn't look an awful lot like 2010.