Is Mitt the Answer?
Lately I'm seeing several articles like this one from CNN, suggesting that Mitt is the savior of the GOP. And as I said a couple of weeks ago, he certainly does seem to be one of the biggest winners (among non-winners, as it were) coming out of this election cycle. After all, he's gone from a virtual unknown to having nationwide name recognition. He went from facing enormous stigma regarding his Mormon faith to gaining considerable acceptance among the evangelical voting bloc who, while not embracing him as one of their own, at least consider him a man of faith and a socially-conservative ally. At the same time, he was neither socially conservative enough nor religiously ostentatious enough to alienate much of the party's moderate support. And the spectacular failure of Palin's, and subsequently McCain's, candidacy, has left a great deal of nostalgia for a what-could-have-been Mitt Romney nomination or veep selection.
All this comes together to create this sense that "Mitt's the man!" for 2012. But is he really? Or is he just the man for now? When you think about it, all these factors that make Mitt seem so ideally suited to lead the party are strictly temporary. And they're temporary in the most fleeting sense.
What makes Mitt perfect? Well, he's a fiscal genius and the economy's a disaster. Well, that's true. But what's to say the economy will still be in shambles in four years? And if it is, doesn't that virtually assure the Republicans a victory, regardless of who wins?
It's true that the future of Detroit and the American automobile industry is quickly becoming one of our nation's foremost concerns. And yes, Mitt is the son of an auto baron and a Michigan native. And he had innovative proposals for how to revive Detroit. But again, one would think this situation would be resolved by 2012.
Following on the heels of the failure of the Palin-Huckabee style excessive appeal to religion, Romney's reserved faith seemed like the superior alternative. But since the end of the McCain-Palin campaign, we've seen extensive criticism of Romney's church's involvement in the Proposition 8 initiative in California. One of the arguments Romney used to quell concerns about his faith was that his church is separate from politics. His speech to that effect was the most critically acclaimed of his campaign. But after the Latter Day Saints' intensive involvement in Proposition 8, it's going to be awfully hard for Romney to make that argument next time around.
Even setting aside all the factors that are likely to change between now and the 2012 race, Romney will still face many of the same difficulties he faced this time around. He has a forced, stilted manner with people; he never seems comfortable the way a Sarah Palin or a Bill Clinton does. His expensive health care plan in Massachussets leaves him at odds with many fiscal conservatives. And he's been all over the map politically, to such an extent that he's been called the "Flip-flop King." Even if, as unlikely as it seems, the political climate remains as perfect for a Romney as it is now, these are the specters that will continue to haunt him two and four years from now.