The excerpt of George Will’s forthcoming Sunday column released by Politico is getting some buzz. Here’s the paragraph that’s been making the rounds, taking aim at the central argument in favor of nominating Mitt Romney:
Romney, supposedly the Republican most electable next November, is a recidivist reviser of his principles who is not only becoming less electable, he might damage GOP chances of capturing the Senate: Republican successes down the ticket will depend on the energies of the Tea Party and other conservatives, who will be deflated by a nominee whose blurry profile in caution communicates only calculated trimming. Republicans may have found their Michael Dukakis, a technocratic Massachusetts governor who takes his bearings from “data” … Has conservatism come so far, surmounting so many obstacles, to settle, at a moment of economic crisis, for THIS?
Will is certainly not alone in his frustration with the GOP’s inability so far to offer up a possible nominee who appears to be both electable and ideologically conservative enough to carry the movement’s flag in 2012.
It will be interesting to read the full column, however, to see if Will proposes an alternative scenario that addresses the dilemma. Will wrote a fantastic column back in August about the conservative enthusiasm for a possible Chris Christie candidacy. But that’s clearly not on the table anymore. And, as Jonathan noted back in June, Will sometimes seems less in search of the conservatism that has “come so far” and more in search of a candidate who just wants to bring the troops home. Before he was on the Christie bandwagon, Will was on the bandwagon of Jon Huntsman, who has spent much of the campaign offering up saccharine slogans and mocking the Republican party.
But there’s a reason Will is writing a column about the likelihood of a Romney nomination. In Will’s own newspaper, Dan Balz has an article based on a focus group conducted among voters in Ohio. When the group was asked to raise their hands if they were comfortable with Herman Cain becoming president, “not a hand went up.” And the ABC News story today about a New Hampshire Republican rescinding his endorsement of Rick Perry isn’t major news, but it is a further indication of the skepticism with which even many of Perry’s supporters now view his candidacy.
So, while Romney is still far from a sure thing–it’s still too early to grant anyone “inevitability”–those opposed to Romney’s nomination have been steadily running out of options. Will knows this, and he may just be getting this off his chest. It may be too late for Romney’s conservative opponents, but this steady drumbeat of discontent will be a major general election obstacle should he win the nomination. He’ll get Republicans’ votes, but the grumbling and lack of enthusiasm will create the perception of a candidate no one really wants.