Without question, most of Romney's problems attracting the conservative base during the 2012 Republican primary are a result of his past. There is little getting around that, as a Massachusetts Republican, Romney was all too willing to hold moderate-to-liberal positions on a number of issues that he has since evolvedÂ on.
While conservatives have every right to be skeptical of Mitt Romney being the conservative he now claims to be, it is also wise to go the "trust-but-verify" route and support Romney to the fullest extent possible. While many will argue the only reason to support Romney is because he is not Obama, there are actually a number of reasons why Romney is actually a very good choice for conservatives in 2012.
He is Not a Tea Party Candidate
While many were hoping to see the tea party revolution spill over into the 2012 presidential election, the reality is that no real tea party candidates ever entered the race. Romney is decidedly not a tea party candidate, and few will ever attempt to label him as such. A loss by Romney does nothing to hurt the movement.
Both Newt Gingrich and Rick Santorum would have been labeled as the tea party choice simply because they were not Romney, the establishment choice.Deep down, few in the movement would be comfortable resting the fate of the tea party on the shoulders of either Gingrich or Santorum. In politics, movements come and go, and a disastrous loss by a candidate would easily prevent the future nomination of a true tea party candidate. The movement is loaded with young talent and there is no need to waste goodwill by blowing it on a candidate who had little to do with the post-Bush conservative resurgence.
Running as a Conservative
Unlike establishment candidates before him, Romney is actually running as a conservative. John McCain, Bob Dole, and George H.W. Bush were all too happy to run as moderate Republicans with moderate positions. During the primary campaign, Romney has run to the right of his opponents on illegal immigration, ethanol and sugar subsidies, and labor unions while running evenly on most other issues such as abortion and the repeal of Obamacare.
Romney has also advocated the defunding of National Public Radio and Public Broadcasting Service, arguing it is time the organizations started running commercials. That is not exactly on the moderate republican talking point list. It would have been easy for Romney to run as a moderate and he probably would have won the primary by doing so given the number of conservatives running. That he chose to run as a conservative while everyone else was as well offers a glimmer of hope that his ideological transformation is real.
A Primary ThreatRomney will only be able to win the presidency with the strong help of the conservative base. If the 2010 election cycle showed anything, it is that incumbent Republican politicians are no longer safe when they run for re-election. Romney will be on a very short leash as conservatives are already skeptical of him. Should he stray, a primary challenge is an easy option for showing dissatisfaction and any number of candidates from the class of 2010 could step up and challenge Romney from the right.
Early Vote FocusRomney, more than any other candidate, has realized the importance of building a strong early vote operation. The inability of Republicans to get out early voters sunk the GOP ticket in 2008 as the Democrats delivered Obama a healthy built-in lead going into election day. Romney built up huge early vote leads in states such as Florida and Arizona during the primary season that gave him easy wins in delegate-rich states. Romney is the only candidate who used an early voter strategy during the primary, and it showed huge results. This organizational focus is a key element in the campaign to oust Obama from the White House.
Gets Under Opponents Skin
Never underestimate the effectiveness of getting under your opponents skin. One thing Romney has shown is the ability to deflect attacks and turn them on his opponents. While he stumbled over questions about his tax returns, he has otherwise escaped long-term damage from his opponents. More importantly, his political attacks on his opponents knocked them off their games and rattled their operations.
In 2008, McCain played the part of the respectful Republican, unwilling to unveil harsh attacks on Barack Obama. Romney has shown little compassion towards his opponents when it comes to launching political arrows. If he continues his aggressive style during the race against Obama, while maintaining conservative stances, Romney may prove to be a much more formidable candidate than originally believed.