It's a mystery to some people why so many Tea Partiers and grassroots conservatives can’t stand Mitt Romney. What is it about him that turns them off so much that at one time or another, they've preferred Donald Trump, Michele Bachmann, Rick Perry, Herman Cain, Rick Santorum, and Newt Gingrich to him nationally despite the fact that he has every advantage in the race? Would Mitt Romney be better than Barack Obama? Sure, but there are some very good reasons that so many grassroots conservatives still find him to be a thoroughly unlikable candidate.
1) He's not a conservative. There have been a lot of conservatives who've talked a good game during the primaries and then have let us down in D.C., but if Mitt Romney becomes the nominee and gets elected, some people seem to be hoping that he'll be the first Republican moderate to go to D.C. and turn into a fire-breathing conservative. Based on his record, if Mitt Romney is nominated, he will be the least conservative candidate since Nixon.
Moreover, keep in mind that in 1994, when Mitt Romney was 47 years old, he was telling people that, "I was an independent during the time of Reagan-Bush. I’m not trying to return to Reagan-Bush" and the Contract with America was "not a good idea." Eight years later in 2002, when he was 55 years old, Mitt Romney was saying, "I think people recognize that I'm not a partisan Republican, that I'm someone who is moderate, and that my views are progressive.” Oh, joy! So he was a progressive, like Hillary Clinton! After four years of governing as a barely right of center moderate and coming up with Romneycare, a piece of signature legislation that any liberal Democrat would be proud of, Mitt Romney supposedly became a conservative -- precisely at the same moment he started running for President. What a stunning coincidence!
One of the great ironies of the campaign is that Newt Gingrich has been quite properly dinged for being a good Republican soldier and endorsing Dede Scozzafava over the Conservative Party's Doug Hoffman and now, a lot of the "good Republican soldiers" are endorsing a male version of Scozzafava for President over Newt.
2) He doesn't believe in anything politically other than Mitt Romney. What conservative cause has Mitt Romney ever fought like hell for in his career? There are none. What has Mitt Romney ever done for conservatives in his career? Nothing of significance...oh wait, I forgot; when he was asked about it in the Florida debate, he noted that he started a family and a business, which is nice, but probably puts him on par with about half of the people reading this column.
In the last decade alone, Mitt has been against an amendment to stop gay marriage and for an amendment to stop gay marriage, for cap and trade and against cap and trade, against Bush's tax cuts and for Bush's tax cuts, for abortion and against abortion, for gun control and against gun control....it goes on and on. Like Arlen Specter, Romney would feel just as comfortable running as a Democrat or Republican and like Barack Obama, all of Mitt's promises come with an expiration date. It's almost impossible to know where Romney will be on any issue in six months, including Obamacare, much less where he'd be after he got elected and settled down inside the Beltway. How do you get fired up about a guy like that? How do you believe in him the way conservatives believe in guys like Jim DeMint?
Mitt Romney is a repeat of the same show conservatives have seen over and over again and we all know the ending if the candidate gets elected. These plastic men, these political Stretch Armstrongs get inside the Beltway Bubble, the media starts working on them, the establishment starts whispering in their ear and next thing you know, they're explaining how important comprehensive immigration reform is to the conservative cause or why we need another Bridge to Nowhere.
When you're a grassroots conservative who has been mocked, ridiculed and attacked for believing in conservatism, capitalism, and the Constitution, sold out again and again by people in your own party, and told your nation is on the verge of a debt-driven crisis that could bankrupt us, the last thing you want is to be treated like you're stupid by a phony Massachusetts moderate who tells you he believes the same things you do when you damn well know he doesn't mean a word of it.
3) Mitt Romney has benefitted from a tremendous media double standard. Other than Herman Cain, who at least is a conservative who has worked tirelessly for the Tea Party, Mitt Romney is the single least qualified man running for office in the Republican field. Yes, Mitt's business experience is a plus, but it didn't help him in Massachusetts, where he was an awful, unpopular governor whose signature program, Romneycare, has been a miserable failure. Romney has gotten where he is because he's rich, the establishment is behind him, and much of the conservative media has been greasing the skids for him.
The double standards have been extraordinary and grating. The other candidates had to bring up Bain Capital because much of the conservative media wouldn't touch the very issue that Ted Kennedy used to beat Mitt Romney's brains in back in 1994. Even today, when you try to point out that Mitt's "100,000" jobs created number is pure vapor, that he made a lot of money off of deals where the taxpayers and the FDIC had to pick up the tab, or that it looks awful for Mitt to make millions on deals where businesses went under and hundreds of middle class workers lost their jobs, you're answered with cries of "capitalism" and "free enterprise!" Good luck with that strategy in the general election if, God help us all, Mitt gets that far.
Furthermore, remember when Newt Gingrich was ahead of Mitt in Iowa, running a positive campaign, and was told "Politics ain't beanbag" after Mitt creamed him with millions in negative ads? Then remember when those same people squealed with outrage when Mitt got exactly what he had been dishing out after New Hampshire? We were told Newt was campaigning like a liberal when he hit Mitt on Bain Capital, but when Mitt ran dishonest ads featuring Tom Brokaw crowing about a now discredited ethics investigation, the same people were silent. After the last debate, it was amazing to hear talking heads telling everyone how wonderful Mitt did after Rick Santorum gutted him like a Christmas turkey on Obamacare and Romney was booed by the audience after he was caught lying about not having seen an ad that he personally endorsed.
Let's be honest and name some names: Jen Rubin, Charles Krauthammer, George Will, National Review, Fox News and the Drudge Report among others have been shilling for Mitt Romney and attacking his adversaries during this primary the way the New York Times will for Barack Obama in the general election. That doesn't make them RINOS, liberals, part of the establishment or bad people. Reasonable people can reach different conclusions about which candidate to support. But that being said, these people should realize that as far as a lot of other conservatives are concerned, they are betting their reputations on Mitt Romney. What they are in effect saying in so many words is, "Vote for Mitt Romney and we promise you that not only will he get elected, he'll govern conservatively." Given his record, that's liquidating your house and putting it on a spin of the roulette wheel.
4) Mitt Romney is cozying up to the establishment, not the Tea Party. Never have so many self-interested, politically-gutless establishment space fillers gathered in one place as on the endorsement list for Mitt Romney. If Bob Dole, John McCain, Susan Molinari, Lisa Murkowski, Jim Talent, Joe Scarborough, Mel Martinez, Jim Gerlach, Judd Gregg, Jon Huntsman, John Sununu and Norm Coleman are all lining up behind a candidate in a contested GOP primary, it's an almost ironclad guarantee that candidate is not going to be worth a bucket of warm spit once he gets into office. If you want to know why you're seeing so many Tea Partiers lining up behind Newt Gingrich, who despite his flaws has done more for the conservative cause than any other living politician, it's because they see the politicians backing Mitt Romney and they're well aware that they're not friends of grassroots conservatives.
It's absolutely unbelievable that after the grassroots helped the GOP have its best year in half a century that we may end up with a human "SCREW YOU!" to the Tea Party like Mitt Romney as the nominee. Here we have a moderate establishment-endorsed candidate who supported TARP, is open to more bailouts, came up with the mother of Obamacare, and he has no bold plans to tackle the deficit -- and this is the guy Tea Partiers are supposed to support after fighting to beat Republicans like that in primaries during the 2010 election cycle? Why don't we just drag Robert Bennett out of retirement to run at the top of the ticket?
5) Mitt just isn't likable enough to be a good politician. Mitt Romney comes across like a sort of bizarro-world combination between John Kerry, Richie Rich, Charlie Crist, and Data from Star Trek. This is what makes the first part of this Saturday Night Live skit so funny -- Mitt really does come across as that weirdly out of touch with hu-man emotion sometimes.
He's also an extremely nasty campaigner -- a little like Barney Frank, without the modicum of vicious charm that endears him to liberals. Want to know why this campaign has been so divisive? That's easy: Mitt Romney embraced win-at-all-costs character assassination and negative advertising as the primary tactic of his campaign and the other candidates had to respond to it. Since he's proven too unlikable to be pulled up very much, Mitt's strategy has been to pull the other candidates down, even if it leads to a mud fight that lessens anyone's chances of winning in a general election.
Additionally, as Mike Huckabee has noted, "[Romney] looks like the guy who fires you, not the guy who hires you" -- and by the way, he does. This, along with the incredibly effective Bain ads that helped sink Mitt in South Carolina are why he's had to release pictures of himself awkwardly doing laundry -- because his campaign believes it allows normal human beings to be able to relate to him better. Is that a good sign? That our "super electable" GOP candidate feels compelled to release pictures of himself standing in front of a washing machine to reassure people that he's more like them? Of course, it won't work because Mitt Romney may be the first politician I've ever seen who has the ability to NEVER appear to be completely sincere about anything. Combine that with his campaign's smug "Megan McCainesque" sense of entitlement and Mitt Romney would be going into the 2012 campaign with a likability deficit even compared to Barack Obama, who has nauseated the entire country with his radicalism, incompetence, and Barney the Dinosaur style sloganeering. What it all comes down to is that when people see a pampered, prissy, fake, spiteful son of a governor who's being served the GOP nomination on a silver platter because he kissed the right establishment behinds, benefitted from an enormous media double standard, and has more money than everyone else, well, let's just say that's exactly the sort of person who inspired someone to come up with the word schadenfreude.