Mitt Romney: Winning With a Whimper

This week voters went to the polls in five American states in an effort to select the Republican Party candidate for the presidency of the United States. In case anyone is uncertain, it will be a moderate Mormon from Massachusetts. One of those states was New York, one of the most important states in the nation politically, socially, culturally and electorally, but did anyone notice? The lack of coverage this event has received is an indication that the Republican race is effectively over and threatens to end with a whimper rather than a bang.

That’s both good and bad news for the Republican Party: Good news since it means that they will finally be able to coalesce around a single candidate, but bad news as the lack of excitement threatens to reduce media coverage and whatever public interest there was in the story or in their candidate.

Until recently, the April 24 primaries had promised to be a showdown between Mitt Romney, the Republican frontrunner and his closest rival, Rick Santorum in what would almost certainly have been a knockout for Romney had he defeated former Senator Santorum in his home state of Pennsylvania.  However, the former senator chose to throw in the sweater-vest just days after promising not to disenfranchise the remaining 50% of U.S. states that had yet to hold primaries or caucuses. Clearly Santorum elected to get out ahead of the vote and before a potentially devastating defeat in his home state.

As a result, Mitt Romney swept the board in Connecticut, New York, Delaware, Rhode Island and in Pennsylvania, securing between 56-67% of the vote. Ron Paul came in second in Connecticut, New York and Rhode Island, whilst Santorum secured second place in Pennsylvania despite having suspended his campaign. The big looser was the former Speaker of the House, Newt Gingrich.

Gingrich had campaigned hard in Delaware, although how this fit with his previously declared ‘Southern Strategy’ is a mystery at this point. Delaware proved to be the only state where Gingrich received more than 13% of the vote, as he came third in Connecticut, New York and Rhode Island and a dismal fourth in Pennsylvania. In a week when it was reported that his Secret Service detail alone is costing a reported $40,000 a day even Newt could no longer justify his continued ego-trip and promptly announced the suspension of his campaign, effective May 1. No doubt he is waiting for some cheques to clear.

So after months of campaigning, what have Romney’s competitors achieved other than a short-term boost to the sweater vest-manufacturing sector? Santorum has, unexpectedly perhaps, emerged as a national candidate. This will help erase memories of his crushing defeat in his 2006 bid for re-election that he lost by over 700,000 votes, receiving only 41% of the vote to his opponents 59%, the largest margin of defeat for an incumbent senator in 26 years. A future career as a Fox News Contributor may be his just reward.

Santorum, of course, emerged as the true winner of the Iowa Caucuses, and won 11 of the first 25 states to vote. The shockingly antiquated voting methods adopted in Iowa must surely be looked at in light of this. Were it not for this he could, and I stress could, have developed the momentum leading into New Hampshire that could have kept him in the race today. In 2000, the voting methods in Florida highlighted the antiquated methods used to elect the most powerful office in the world. Twelve years later, it seems, little has improved.

Importantly, Santorum succeeded in pulling Romney to the right, keeping him honest, perhaps, but honest to whom? Honest to Conservative values? Barely. Honest to Romney’s convictions? Far from it.  It is apparent that Romney has little in common with mainstream Republican sentiment, belief or tradition. No one gets elected Governor of Massachusetts by espousing Conservative values that would be embraced in the heartland. He is, it would seem, the epitome of a RINO: Republican in Name Only.

By forcing Romney to challenge him for the traditional Republican vote Santorum may well have done more harm than good for the eventual Republican nominee heading into the general election against Obama. Romney’s campaign has already stated that they intend to say one thing in the Primaries and then essentially re-set these policies for the general election, giving rise to the allegation of being an ‘Etch-a-Sketch’ candidate, prepared to say or do anything and utterly unconcerned with investing in a set of irreversible policies.

Such statements and lack of philosophical commitment to a cause will be taken apart by the Obama campaign as the election heads into the autumn and the knives are sharpened on all sides.  The president has spoken this week of not having been raised with a silver spoon in his mouth, a non-too subtle reminder of Romney’s great wealth and the divisions that clearly exist in the United States between those who have and those who do not. The White House has clearly decided which side it is going to campaign on this year, irrespective of Obamas’ own personal wealth.

With issues of race, international tensions in the Gulf and an economy that is still sluggish at best, this should be one of the most contentious and closely run presidential elections in living memory. It would be all the more so if the Republican Party had a candidate that could appeal to independents, the mainstream party faithful and Tea Party activists. In Mitt Romney, they do not and this fact alone could well lead to the re-election of Barack Obama, by default rather than by adulation.

An alternate version of this article first appeared on The Commentator on April 25

More JDB media work

Following Rick Santorum’s decision to suspend his campaign have done a little work with the media. This morning I was interviewed by Austrian Broadcasting Corporation, Radio FM4 on the expected direction of Mitt Romney’s campaign and this evening I will be returning to the airwaves to discuss the implications of Santorum’s decision with Richie allen on ITalkFM. Listen live at 4.00 UK time.

JDB on Sky News on Easter Sunday

There were even more reasons to give thanks this Easter Sunday, as I appeared live on Sunrise on Sky News at 8.00 to offer an appraisal of the ongoing race for the Republican nomination.

Will what is being portrayed as the ‘drawn-out’ campaign hinder the eventual nominee?

If that nominee is Mitt Romney can he put his many errors behind him and find a way to draw together a coalition capable of defeating President Obama in November? How can he overcome the growing perception that the Republican Party is somehow anti-women?

What now for Rick Santorum after his three defeats on Tuesday in Wisconsin, Maryland and Washington, D.C. and the hospitalization of his daughter this weekend?  Polls show him behind in his home state of Pennsylvania, which votes on April 24, along with New York, Connecticut, Delaware and Rhode Island. All the major candidates have won their home states so far. Can Santorum survive if he fails to do so?

These were some of the issues that were addressed by myself in conversation with Lorna Dunkley on Sunrise and can be viewed below. So enjoy my take on all things American along with your Easter Eggs! What a perfect combination.

Happy Easter!

Super Tuesday Media Work Part One

Super Tuesday saw me engaging with the world’s media, conducting radio interviews on the Iberian Peninsula, offering words of wisdom to journalists in Eastern Europe and appearing live on a Doha based satellite TV channel.

Here is my forecast for Super Tuesday from my Al Jazeera English appearance on March 5, 2012

Reflections on Super Tuesday

This GOP primary season has becoming a variant on the Wizard of Oz; Romney lacks a Soul, Santorum has too big a Heart, Gingrich has too large an Ego and Paul lacks a Prayer.

Romney’s victories in six out of ten states last night signified a triumph of money and organisation over ideology and passion. Romney simply had more money and a better ground team to organise victory in the states he had to win, as well as in states that he could have afforded to lose and yet won anyway, such as Alaska. Despite his victories Romney is singularly failing to win the hearts and minds of voters. His will therefore be an autocratic victory at best, lacking in Soul. He will be the nominee but no one will ever love him.

In contrast, Rick Santorum is loved by his supporters, but he can’t organise them sufficiently. He was ahead in several key states that he eventually lost last night. This is the weakness in his entire campaign: Sanatorium appears to have the heart of the voters but this is insufficient to win the nomination. His story is the opposite of Romney; all heart and passion but lacking the funds and organisation to secure the nomination.

Newt Gingrich won his home state of Georgia, which was no more of a surprise than Massachusetts voting heavily for its former governor, Mitt Romney. The dilemma for Gingrich is what to do now? His Nixon-inspired Southern strategy has failed to deliver him the much-needed victories he needed to offset the heavy defeats he suffered in the North, East and West. If nothing else, his defeat in Tennessee last night proved his consistency: He is unpopular EVERYWHERE.

Ron Paul is still in the race and continues to pick up an occasional delegate, but like Gingrich, all he is doing now is splitting the anti-Romney vote. Like Ralph Nader in 2000, his tiny percentage of the vote could serve to deliver up the exact opposite of what his supporters would most want. Just as Nader helped enable a Bush presidency in Florida, so too could Paul guarantee a Romney nomination.

So have we learned anything from Super Tuesday? Arguably not. We already knew that Romney was very well financed, well organised and certain to win his home state of Massachusetts and by extension, regional states such as Vermont. We knew that Rick Santorum has the passionate support of those Republicans who are more conservative and that he would win a state or two. We also knew that Gingrich would lament the temerity of his opponents to campaign against him, talk about his battle against the Washington insiders and make the most out of any victory he could lay claim to.

Gingrich claims to be staying in the race and looking to benefit from the forthcoming southern states, but so far he has lost in Florida and Tennessee and has only won 2 states; his home state of Georgia and neighbouring South Carolina. His continued presence on the ballot serves only to massage his inflated ego and to split the anti-Romney vote, ironically ensuring that Romney will almost certainly receive the nomination.

What we also knew before a vote had been cast is that this is probably all in vain. With his approval on the rise, unemployment figures declining, a potentially difficult speech at AIPAC and meting with Netanyahu handled adroitly, President Obama demonstrated this week that he is a force to be reckoned with who will not go quietly into the night.

At this rate, unless the GOP comes up with a Game Changer, the President will be smiling all the way to the ballot in November…

JDB to address the Henry Jackson Society in Cambridge tonight

I am delighted to announce that I will be addressing the Henry Jackson Society members at Cambridge University this evening.

I am honoured to have been invited by Jonathan Bronitsky and Brendan Simms to discuss U.S. politics with such an august group of people.

My talk, entitled, Process, Primaries and the Presidency, will address the events so far and consider the candidacies of Mitt Romney, Ron Paul and Rick Santorum, as well as Newt Gingrich. I will assess the Republican chances for success in November and the likelihood of Obama’s re-election. It is likely that foreign policy will be addressed so discussions of the forthcoming meeting between Obama and Netanyahu and the state of U.S-Israeli relations may be tabled.

The event is at 5.30 this evening at Pembroke College.