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Romney's 'Electability' vs. Santorum's Authenticity in an Unconventional Year
By David Jones
January 17th, 2012
Catholic Online (www.catholic.org)
Santorum is the tortoise in the race, surging at just the right time in Iowa. He is a true Pro-Life and Pro-Family candidate with a strong foreign policy background and a populist economic message about rebuilding the manufacturing base in this country. Santorum is a practicing Catholic with a large family and an amazing personal family story. What is most striking about him though is his authenticity.
GREENVILLE, SC (Catholic Online) - Mitt Romney will win the Republican nomination for President. At least, that is conventional logic. It is his turn, after losing the last election cycle to John McCain. McCain has now endorsed Romney this election cycle. Romney has garnered major endorsements from governors and congressmen and women from all around the country.
Jon Huntsman dropping out of the race now and endorsing Romney will only help Romney consolidate more votes. Huntsman was the highly successful Governor of Utah and 3-time ambassador. His support will only strengthen Romney. The Republican Party establishment seems to be in full support of Romney.
Romney has raised an enormous amount of money to run for President. He has a huge national organization. He has multiple Super PACs working on his behalf. Romney won a narrow victory in the Iowa Caucus and a substantial victory in the New Hampshire Primary. No non-incumbent Republican candidate had ever won both Iowa and New Hampshire. He is leading in national polls as well as leading in South Carolina where the next primary is to be held later this week on Saturday.
No Republican candidate in the modern period has won the Republican nomination without first winning South Carolina. If Romney wins there, almost everyone is convinced the Republican race is over for all the other candidates. The momentum of three straight victories is too much for anyone to overcome, especially considering Romney's national organization and campaign war chest of money which will only increase after a victory in South Carolina.
So, if it is a done deal, if it's inevitable that Romney will win and run against President Obama in the fall, why should we care about the Republican race? Why should we even vote?
The answer is a simple one, it's not a conventional or normal year. The old logic doesn't work this year.
The rules for this year's primary/caucus season are different. The Republican Party has changed how delegates are awarded. It is now proportional representation which means delegates are awarded by each state according the percentage of vote that they win, it is not winner-take-all. According to MSNBC's delegates count, Romney has 18 delegates. His closest competitor Santorum has 11 delegates. 1143 delegates are required to win the Republican nomination. This race is far from over.
I would remind voters that there is a recount of votes in progress right now in Iowa which could make Santorum the victor there. That would change the delegate count. Santorum has also recently pulled ahead of Gingrich in the official count of votes in the New Hampshire Primary. Santorum just earned the endorsement of 150 major Evangelical leaders in their recent meeting, on Friday 13th, in Texas. South Carolina is composed of a 60% Evangelical vote in the Republican Primary.
The key factor which Romney needed to occur in South Carolina was for conservatives to split their votes 4-5 ways so that he could garner the winning margin. Evangelicals do not vote in a monolithic block, nor do Catholics for that matter, but for those who are active and practicing church-goers, they do listen to their leaders. If Evangelicals actually coalesce around one candidate, that will have an impact that could very well tip the balance on who wins South Carolina. Whoever wins South Carolina will receive a huge fundraising boost and surge going into the Florida Primary at the end of January.
65% of those polled in the Republican Party do not support Romney for President though. Why is this? Romney seems to be very mechanical, robot-like. He seems overly programmed, like an East German spy of old. His talks are those written by speech writers telling voters what they want to hear. Romney seldom speaks from his heart. Few actually believe that Romney actually believes what he says, he is just saying what he thinks will get him elected.
The reason why so many doubt his sincerity is because of his own history and record. When running for Senate against Ted Kennedy, he ran as a liberal Republican and he lost that race badly. Romney would recover from that loss and later go on to be elected Governor of Massachusetts. As a one-term governor, Romney's own record was moderate at best. His state mandated health care, called Romneycare, and would later become a model for Obamacare. It is fair to judge one's record and few would have the audacity to call it conservative.
How can such a candidate excite the base of the Republican Party in 2012, especially one that depends upon vibrant Tea Party support that was so successful in the 2010 Congressional elections against the Democratic Party? If Romney excites few in his own party, how can he inspire independents and conservative Democrats to support him? He simply won't.
Both Bob Dole and John McCain were also moderate Republicans who were candidates for the U.S. Presidency. They were both also decorated war veterans, and both of them lost their race against their Democratic opponents. Why would Republicans want a repeat of 1996 or 2008? Romney's electability seems to be a great liability to me and to the majority of the Republican Party. So who are our alternatives?
Ron Paul is one. He is also a libertarian. Paul can garner no more than 10-15% nationally and therefore is unelectable. Most believe he is only running again to continue building a political and fundraising network for his son, Rand, so that he can run for President in 2016.
Governor Rick Perry is also running for President. Perry is long-time Governor of Texas. He was initially thought to be a major contender against Romney with both the organization and money to really compete against him. Unfortunately after several very poor debate performances, he lost the confidence of Republicans that he would be able to defeat President Obama. After a poor showing in Iowa, he gave the signal that he was ending his campaign, but only a day later he changed his mind to stay in the race. He skipped the New Hampshire Primary to focus on South Carolina but few expect him to do well there either. It is his Alamo. Most expect that he will officially drop out after the South Carolina Primary.
Former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich is another major contender against Romney. Newt is a "big thinker" who designed the Contract with America in the 1990s and got it passed through Congress. He is also a great debater, arguably the best in the current field, and a Catholic convert. Newt is also is the Speaker who was forced out of his leadership position by his own party and resigned from Congress due to scandal. His public and personal lives were a total wreck. Even though he has spent a decade trying to repair that damage, many consider both his professional and personal scandals "a bridge too far" to cross.
Newt's and Perry's attacks against Bain Capital, Romney's old business firm, have been viewed by most Republicans as going too far, considering it an attack against capitalism itself which puts them in the bad graces of the establishment in the Republican Party. Most consider Newt's personal mission in South Carolina as one of destroying Romney but killing himself in the progress. He has truly earned the nick-name "Kamikaze Newt".
That leaves only one man left standing against Romney, a real conservative and former Senator of Pennsylvania, Rick Santorum. Santorum is the tortoise in the race, surging at just the right time in Iowa. He is a true Pro-Life and Pro-Family candidate with a strong foreign policy background and a populist economic message about rebuilding the manufacturing base in this country. Santorum is a practicing Catholic with a large family and an amazing personal family story. What is most striking about him though is his authenticity. He says what he believes and believes what he says. Few, if any, believe that about Romney.
South Carolina is a real test for both Santorum and Romney. Will the voters of the state coalesce around one conservative or the presumptive front-runner who is a moderate? We shall know by Saturday evening. Americans are a great judge of people. They also love an underdog.
Disclaimer - The opinions expressed in this article are those solely of the author and not those of the U.S. Army.
David Jones holds a Masters in Theological Studies from the Institute of Religious and Pastoral Studies, University of Dallas. He is a member of the Fraternity of Communion and Liberation, a Pontifically recognized and approved ecclesial movement. He also runs a popular blog entitled La Nouvelle Theologie. His conversion story is published in the Italian book entitled Sotto Il Cielo D'America (Under the American Sky) written by Marco Bardazzi. The introduction of this book has been translated into English and is available on-line here.
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