Romney as Kerry Redux
A wealthy politician from Massachusetts saddled with accusations of unprincipled flip-flops runs for the Presidency. He touts one salient attribute of his biography as the main underpinning of his campaign to defeat the incumbent President. And he earns his party's nomination due to his perceived electability. John Kerry circa 2004, you say? Try Mitt Romney, ersatz John Kerry for the Republicans in 2012.
Despite the media's portrayal, President Obama is ripe to be beaten, as hope and change have transformed into despair and unending unemployment lines. The poll numbers bear this out as only 30% of voters are certain to vote again for the President. The poor economy has finally begun to drag the President's numbers down and boost the head-to-head polling of Mitt Romney.
A direct Romney/Kerry comparison has its limitations, chiefly, the state of the economy could not be more different between 2004 and the present. However, you can begin to see a parallel in the declining approval ratings of President Bush in early 2004 when the country began to question the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Enter the idea of Senator Kerry's electability, based in large measure on the idea that his military service provided an aura of expertise regarding the nation's involvement in two wars while simultaneously inoculating the Democratic ticket from attacks about being weak on defense.
Fast forward to 2012. Swap Romney for Kerry and trade the military experience for business and the comparison gains strength. Romney sells his business acumen as the primary reason for choosing him to be the GOP standard-bearer. His success in saving the Winter Olympics in Utah and creating jobs in business are both made to order recipes for victory in these times of out-of-control spending and high unemployment. So what's the problem you say? For starters, RomneyCare, the seed of ObamaCare.
Romney's decision to saddle the businesses and citizens of Massachusetts with crippling health care costs weakens his argument for his business savvy, just as Senator Kerry's military service was questioned by his post-Army defamation of those who had served honorably in Vietnam. Conservatives wandering the desert in search of their candidate for 2012 may want to look past the surging poll numbers and nebulous electability factor and focus on the conservative who can take the fight to a weakened President.
Romney's primary strength, like Kerry, carries with it his fatal weakness that leads to his penchant for waffling on issues. Both Kerry and Romney struggled in answering issues ranging from abortion to gay rights, and never managed to provide the impression that they stood for anything other than the principles that would lead most directly to the White House. Conservatives are wary as liberals were about Kerry and may wonder about where Romney would stand as President. Voters believing in his electability must ignore the flip-flops and RomneyCare cudgel and fool themselves into buying the idea that liberals or left-leaning independents will stay away from President Obama on Election Day.
The belief that Romney may appeal enough to independents who lean left or that liberals may stay home on election day because Romney may not appear too conservative is akin to the Kerry appeal that he would bring home enough moderates against President Bush to defeat him in 2004. Liberals will be sure to rally to President Obama once Romney is painted with the broad brush of being an indecisive flip-flopper as well as a businessman who implicitly endorses government-run health care. Because Romney inspires neither conservative allegiance nor crossover appeal, he is a hobbled candidate from the beginning, much like Senator Kerry was in his effort to unseat President Bush.
Being unpopular alone will not lead to President Obama's early retirement in 2012. The electorate generally leans toward the devil they know versus the devil they don't when contemplating whom to choose for President. An appeal to voters based primarily on voting against the incumbent rather than for the opponent failed Senator Kerry. If Mitt Romney hopes to be the next President, he must overcome many of the same problems that affected Kerry, as he won't win a protest vote against the incumbent. Ultimately, both conservatives and the nation need a candidate they can feel comfortable believing in rather than being solely against President Obama.