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What Do You Want to Spend the Next Nine Months Defending?

One of the most persuasive cases against nominating Mitt Romney is that he would make it difficult for Republicans to attack Obama over health care during the general election. But conservatives need to go beyond just asking themselves what ground they want to challenge Obama on. They also need to ask themselves what ground they want to spend the general election defending.

If Mitt Romney is the nominee, Republicans will have to scale back the all-out assault on ObamaCare they hoped to pursue. But at the same time, they won’t have to spend the race mounting a vocal defense of RomneyCare, since Democratic attacks aren’t likely to focus on that issue. Instead, Democrats will target Romney on class warfare, business regulations, taxes, Wall Street, and so on.

Rick Santorum’s nomination would cause Democrats to revamp this strategy. Class warfare will undoubtedly play a role. But Santorum’s key weaknesses with independent voters are in the social issues arena, and that’s what Democrats will zero in on. Republicans will spend most of the election defending Santorum’s positions on gay marriage, abortion, contraception, and the role of women in the military and workplace.

This isn’t to say that Republicans should only base their nominee decision on Democratic attacks. Focusing solely on defense is a losing strategy. But they should remember that while it’s important to nominate a candidate who can effectively attack Obama on his weaknesses, it’s just as crucial to nominate a candidate whose vulnerable areas are ones they want to spend the next nine months defending.


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