07 February 2008

Patriot or Patsy?

The news just broke about Romney suspending his Presidential campaign when he was speaking before CPAC. Reporters claim that Romney was planning to stay in the race before he started to write the speech for the Conservative Conference. However, when he began to flesh out his text, he realized that a contentious Republican primary fight would cripple the winner in the November election. During the speech, Mitt alluded to Reagan’s extended fight for the 1976 nomination in Kansas City, but Romney concluded that we are at war and can not open ourselves to bad liberal governance without a good fight in a united party.

Cynics will say that Romney was tried of bankrolling a losing cause so he dropped out. Reporters framed the decision in the businessman narrative, with a storyline akin to “Just like when he was at Bain Capital, Romney knew when to stop investing in a losing business”. I am willing to take him at his word, that it was for the good of the party and ultimately for the nation. I just hate the timing of his suspension.

Granted, he was speaking among friends at CPAC and could earn their long standing good graces as the new guardian. Mitt’s meeting with elected officials was scheduled for after his CPAC speech, so the suspension was not a reaction to a “Come to Jesus” meeting with GOP Washington insiders.

Unless Romney’s internal polls reflected a sea change among party activists, I anticipated a good showing for Mitt in the Washington and Kansas caucuses (well not so much for the Sunflower State after the Bob Dole flap). It was possible that downstate Virginia conservatives could have helped Mitt pull out Virginia on February 12th. Who should we vote for when we go to the polls for the Chesapeake primaries?

During the post suspension coverage, my wife asked me “The good hair guy is dropping out?” I affirmed that Romney is suspending his campaign. She then asked “Does that mean that he could get back in?” I answered “Well, theoretically he could, but this means that he can continue to fundraise to cover his costs.” I suggested that she should still vote for him next week so his principles would have a voice on the platform. Little good such voices had in 1996 when Bob Dole denied that he would even read the Republican platform, much less adhere to it. I have to hope that conservatives have more delegates to remind McCain not to sell out his base.

Only in the fullness of time will it be evident if Romney’s graceful suspension of the campaign will unite Republicans to win in November or burnish Mitt’s conservative credentials for the future. I just suspect that clearing the field won’t be appreciated by the eventual nominee, and the base will be stepped on. That would make turn Romney’s patriotic play into the role of a patsy.

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