If Romney was left to run only on his conservative credentials, voters would probably begin to see him as the emperor in The Emperor’s New Clothes, someone in desperate need of a personality and an authentic conservative mantle. It’s no surprise Romney won the Nevada caucus. The state’s significant Mormon population helped Romney win, as it did in 2008. But in big states like Florida, money and organization are his assets because Romney has been unable to win over the majority of Republicans with his fluctuating record.
Romney and his Romney PACs bought his Florida win by spending $15.6 million in TV ads compared to the paltry $3.3 million Newt and pro-Newt PACs spent. This left Newt unable to defend himself against Romney’s avalanche of negative ads. (That said Newt is falling woefully short on organization and money. Failing to make it on Virginia’s primary ballot, Newt complained Virginia’s 1970 ballot access law was too onerous. He also said he would challenge Florida’s winner take all primary results. When you’re running for president, excuses are unacceptable.)
Romney’s spending in Florida replicated the same tactics he used in Iowa just on a bigger scale. This begs the question: is Romney trying to buy the GOP nomination because he can’t convince voters he can be trusted as a conservative?
“I’m not concerned about the very poor. We have a safety net there. If it needs a repair, I’ll fix it. I’m not concerned about the very rich. I’m concerned about the very heart of America, the 90%, 95% of Americans who right now are struggling and I’ll continue to take that message across the nation.”
He then added:
“You can choose where to focus. You can focus on the rich. That’s not my focus. You can focus on the very poor. That’s not focus. My focus is on middle income Americans . . .We have a very ample safety net. . .we have food stamps, we have Medicaid , we have housing vouchers, we have programs to help the poor.”
Compare this to Newt’s tax plan which would move all earners toward a flatter tax like the 15% Romney enjoys and Newt’s pledge to move people off of food stamps and into jobs. Then ask yourself of the two who sounds more conservative?
Aside from Romney’s economic plan, the real reason Romney has to buy the GOP nomination is Romneycare, the Massachusetts healthcare mandate he signed into law, which he insists isn’t Obamacare. As Santorum said in a lengthy exchange with Romney during a Florida debate, “Romneycare is Obamacare.” Imagine Romney as the GOP nominee in debates with Obama, defending Romneycare in one breath then saying he wants to repeal Obamacare in the next. Tough sell!
Someone tweeted at me recently if our political reality were different and we had a Republican in the White House today instead of President Obama, we would probably see Mitt Romney on a stage debating Hillary Clinton in a race for the Democrat nomination. We know where Obama and the other Republican candidates stand on the issues but not Romney.
With a record like Romney’s, constantly seesawing from left to right, one understands why money may be his ticket to ride into the GOP nomination. It’s hard for voters to trust someone like Romney whose positions are like a box of chocolates-- you just don’t know what you’re going to get. In a general election this will matter, especially in wooing independent voters.