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March 28, 2011
Romney's Big Political Hurdle
Conventional political wisdom cites Romneycare as former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney's biggest hurdle to the 2012 GOP Presidential nomination. But it's not.
If Romney becomes a candidate, Romneycare will, obviously, be an issue he'll need to address in order to become a leading, if not the leading, Republican candidate. But it's not an insurmountable hurdle, nor is it necessarily destined to be a drag on his potential campaign. In fact, it could become a plus. Here's how.
In the context of explaining why he signed the Massacheusetts 2006 health care reform bill, prolonged discussions as to his motives, and how Romneycare compares to Obamacare, will wear thin, and soon. And, talk that devolves into a wonkish discussion that parses the pros-and-cons of the two initiatives will leave yawning voters with glazed eyes.
Romney's best approach is that of the reformed addict -- someone who, once addicted to a substance or an ideology, speaks with enhanced credibility having learned from their mistakes. His campaign will aim to drive home this message: During Romney's watch, Massacheusetts tried a version of health care reform that he now acknowledges was a mistake. He, better than any other candidate, knows that the consequences of Obamacare will bring far worse harm to all fifty states.
It's the Reformed Addict Principle: The repentant alcoholic is a more compelling witness against excessive drinking than the life-time tea toddler. Been there. Done that. Knows it's bad for you. Who better to fix Obamacare - by total repeal or vast overhaul - than someone who once applied it on a smaller scale?
So, if effectively addressed, Romneycare can become a plus for a potential Romney campaign. But if his campaign wades into the weeds by comparing the two health care reforms initiatives, Romneycare will be, at best, a neutral factor in his campaign. At worse, it will bring guilt by genetic association.
In any regard, Romneycare isn't the biggest hurdle to a Romney nomination. Regardless of whether or not former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee becomes a candidate, Romney's biggest hurtle will be convincing more than a few conservative Christians that his membership in the The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints -- the Mormons -- should not preclude them from supporting him.
On December 29, 2007, the American Thinker posted a piece entitled "The Context of Huck's Devilish Question." Therein I wrote:
Mike Huckabee's rhetorical question -- "Don't Mormons believe that Jesus and the devil are brothers?"-- to Zev Chafets in a New York Times Magazine article entitled "The Huckabee Factor" was aimed around evangelical Christian leaders and toward conservative Christian voters...So, when former Southern Baptist pastor Mike Huckabee said of the LDS, "I think it's a religion. I don't really know much about it," his unspoken message, to those with ears to hear, was clear.
Huckabee's disingenuous question back then was aimed at conservative Christians who don't recognize the Christian authenticity of the Church of the LDS. It reminded them that Romney is a Mormon. (Huckabee's recent misstatement about Obama growing up in Kenya may have been the same sort of indirect assault based on credible denial. In it, he revisited the controversy over the question of Obama's citizenship without directly mentioning it.)
If Romney and Huckabee compete head-to-head for the GOP Presidential nomination, the LDS issue is unlikely to openly re-emerge. But it will lurk in the background as the major hurdle to a Romney nomination.
If Romney should become the GOP Presidential candidate, the key question will be: Will conservative Christians so inclined put aside their faith-based bias against Mormons, and vote for Romney? Or, will they stay home and cut off their collective nose to spite their face?