Super Tuesday has passed, and Mitt Romney has begun to pull away from Rick Santorum and Newt Gingrich ever so slightly. But he still hasn’t scored enough of a victory to send his opponents the message that they should look for the exits.
In fact, if not for Newt Gingrich’s oversized ego combined with difficult qualification rules in Virginia, Romney would be reeling from a devastating blow delivered by Santorum on Tuesday, as he would likely have lost at least seven of the ten primaries and caucuses on that day. Instead, he won six of the states and cemented his status as the likely eventual candidate.
However, in what all the pundits considered the pivotal state of Ohio, Romney scored a less than one percentage point victory (37.9% to 37.1%) over Santorum, despite having outspent him many times over. There is no doubt in my mind that more than two-thirds of Gingrich’s 14.6% would have gone to Santorum if he hadn’t been in the race. It’s obvious that Romney needs Gingrich to remain as fodder over the next month to maintain the aura of inevitability as the eventual nominee.
Ohio, Georgia, and Alaska would no doubt have been Santorum victories were they head-to-head contests between he and Romney. I still consider Ron Paul to be nothing more than an interesting sideshow, whose supporters will likely split pretty evenly between the Republican nominee, President Obama, and voting third party or staying home in the general election. Paul will likely accumulate enough delegates to be a distraction at the Republican National Convention, but his effect on the presidential race beyond that will be negligible.
As of this week Romney’s strategy is to behave as if the nomination is sewn up and focus on President Obama while largely ignoring his primary opponents. This may or may not work. Perception is everything, and if Republican voters think he is jumping the gun while promoting the illusion that their primary votes are meaningless, there could be a backlash. I’m still not convinced that Romney has the nomination in the bag yet, for several reasons.
For one, outside of the northeast, Romney is having a very hard time getting anywhere near a majority of Republican votes. And this is against opponents that cannot be described as “formidable” without stretching the definition of the word beyond its breaking point. If his opponents included New Jersey Governor Chris Christie or someone with a significant cult-like following such as Sarah Palin, it would be more understandable. (I know, Ron Paul’s supporters may qualify as “cult-like,” but I’ve already explained why I don’t think he’s important to this process.)
Another Romney problem is the perception that he is out of touch with “the common man”. Well, this is honestly more than a perception. Mitt Romney has no idea what it’s like to be poor or middle class. And he proves it on a regular basis with lame attempts to appeal to the masses. Incidents receiving widespread reporting include his appeal to NASCAR fans by stating he has a couple of friends who are NASCAR owners, and an attempt to commune with all the regular Joes who strive to drive American-made cars by pointing out that his wife has “a couple of Cadillacs.” Added to his earlier statement that he “like(s) to fire people,” it becomes obvious that these aren’t just misstatements. They are real insights to a mindset that doesn’t understand what middle-class Americans deal with on an everyday basis.
And then there is Romney’s deliberately weak response to a question about Rush Limbaugh’s ugly rants about Sandra Fluke’s testimony regarding contraceptive services to a Democratic congressional panel. As everyone knows by now, Limbaugh referred to the young lady as a “slut” and a “prostitute”. (If you read or hear what Ms. Fluke actually said and then listen to Limbaugh’s blusterfest about her, it’s obvious that he never knew what was contained in her testimony, or chose to ignore it to suit his slimy purposes.)
When confronted by a reporter, Romney stated that Limbaugh’s words were “not the language that I would have used.” Huh? That response appears to say that he agreed with Limbaugh’s sentiment but would have chosen different words than “slut” and “prostitute”. Stephen Colbert of “The Colbert Report” perceptively suggested that perhaps Romney would have used “trollop” or “harlot” instead.
Mitt Romney’s failure to denounce Limbaugh reveals to me a primary reason that he should never be elected president. He is a wimp of the first order. He had a “Sister Souljah” moment staring him in the face and couldn’t bring himself to take advantage of it by jumping on his own party’s biggest windbag who had just committed the largest act of verbal bullying in at least a year.
And he failed to do so because, like at least 90% of Republican politicians, Romney is afraid of Rush Limbaugh and his millions of followers. He has no problem railing at President Obama for some perceived (or made up) failure of leadership for not talking tougher to Iran, while he can’t even bring himself to properly criticize a despicable sexist pig who had gone on a three-day slanderous diatribe directed at a young lady whose crime was to advocate that insurance companies be required to provide proper access to health care for women.
Romney spectacularly failed his most prominent cojones test to date. If he does end up with the GOP nomination, it will and should cost him in a major way in November.