Poor Mitt Romney. The man seems destined to destroy his own candidacy and be loathed in perpetuity for allowing Barack Obama a second term.
After a pair of primary wins on Tuesday, Mitt was questioned by a reporter about a perilous trend among Republican voters. Exit poll data revealed that Republicans who self-identify as “very conservative” are still uncomfortable with Mitt. Michigan’s conservatives voted for Santorum over Romney by a 15-point margin, again raising doubts about the front-runner’s strength within his own party.
Off the cuff and sans talking points, how did Romney respond? Well, he spoke from his heart.
“It’s very easy to excite the base with incendiary comments,” he told reporters. “We’ve seen throughout the campaign that if you’re willing to say really outrageous things that are accusatory and attacking President Obama, that you’re going to jump up in the polls. You know, I’m not willing to light my hair on fire to try and get support.”
Yep, that’s us, the conservative base seen through the eyes of Mitt Romney. We don’t care about substance. We want fireworks. We want carnage. We want that Muslim president sent back to his Kenyan birthplace. At essence, we conservatives are really just a bunch of Yosemite Sams and Elmer Fudds. If it doesn’t go boom, we’re not interested.
At least Romney refrained from using the word “peasants.”
It is truly sad. Funny — for those who appreciate schadenfreude — but mostly sad. Mitt just can’t help himself from maligning his party’s base. He didn’t misspeak. He didn’t misunderstand the question. Whatever his faults, Mitt Romney is an honest, intelligent man. In his statement, he clearly enunciated what little he thinks of the base of the Republican Party. In a way, his honesty is admirable.
With that said, mistakes are not admirable. There’s a reason that President Obama uses a teleprompter for every public statement, large and small. The president is not dense. He simply knows that when he deviates from talking points, he reveals too much about himself. (See Joe the Plumber.) Romney should learn the same lesson.
Conservatives are unlikely to be offended by Romney’s comments. We know what Mitt is and what he isn’t. And, with sinking hearts and great anxiety, we also sense the seemingly inexorable inertia that is driving the GOP nomination into his grasp.
Contrary to conventional wisdom, the anxiety that conservatives feel does not stem from Mitt Romney. It stems from the vacuum that Mitt currently occupies. Election outcomes are determined by voter enthusiasm. If you don’t believe in your candidates, you don’t show up at the polls. The effect has been especially pronounced in the last three cycles. And though November 2010 was just 16 months ago, it seems far away. Since our massive tea party-driven victory, conservatives haven’t seen much that could enthuse them. Neither our leadership in the House nor our presidential contenders have provided a success to rally behind or a vision to believe in. And few, if any, see Mitt Romney as the missing sparkplug.
I almost feel sorry for Mitt. He’s been running for president for nearly a decade. He looks the part. He has a first-rate organization. The party’s big wigs are in his corner. He’s got a dynamite resume, endless resources and a vulnerable opponent. And there are no skeletons in his closet. In short, Mitt Romney has all of the requisite strengths and none of the typical weaknesses in a surefire presidential nominee. The only problem is him.
Unlike Democrats, Republicans don’t need our candidates to love us or feel our pain. We need them to take a stand and mean what they say. In that light, Romney had a second notable, post-victory quote on Tuesday, “I’m going to deliver on more jobs, less debt, smaller government.”
Maybe a surprise candidate will enter the race. Maybe there will be a brokered convention. Maybe a meteor will strike the earth before November. In the meantime, get Mitt Romney a teleprompter.
Yates Walker is a conservative activist and writer. Before becoming involved in politics, he served honorably as a paratrooper and a medic in the U.S. Army’s 82nd Airborne Division. He can be reached at email@example.com.