Even if Mitt Romney wins in Florida on Tuesday, he still may lose the presidency come November.
The old adage of “divide and conquer” may work well in war, but in politics it’s not always a smart strategy, especially in Republican primaries.
Ronald Reagan’s name has been evoked quite often in this race. The Gipper must be turning over in his grave that Mitt Romney has so badly violated his 11th Commandment: “Thou shalt not speak ill of any fellow Republican.”
Reagan’s law not only sounds great, it’s smart politics. Reagan understood that the very same Republicans a candidate attacks in a primary will be the people he will need to back him in a general election. Reagan had political finesse that Mitt Romney, a brilliant business man, apparently lacks.
Clearly Gov. Romney is receiving bad advice on his campaign strategy. So far, what has the politics of division gotten Romney?
Romney and his allies have spent some $15 million in Florida alone violating Reagan’s 11th Commandment by engaging in vicious attacks on Newt Gingrich.
Gingrich, outgunned by Mitt’s personal checkbook and the fat cats in Wall Street who have backed him, seems like a guy using a BB gun firing away at B-52s above.
Nevertheless, Mitt doesn’t have a lot to show. He lost Iowa. He won in his adopted home state of New Hampshire where Democratic and independent voters can vote in the GOP primary. He was then walloped by Gingrich in South Carolina, and in Florida, he may just squeak out a win after outspending Newt Gingrich 5 to 1 on TV ads.
At the end of the day, Mitt’s strategy may well backfire and could have repercussions all the way to November.
Rush Limbaugh has lambasted the “coordinated attack” on Gingrich, who Rush describes as a “premier defender” of Ronald Reagan.
Rush added that Romney’s smear campaign against the former House speaker is one reason so many Republicans “hate” Mitt Romney. Sarah Palin, a respected leader of the GOP grass-roots movement, is also angered by the GOP establishment trying to crush Newt Gingrich.
She has even invoked the image of Jesus on the cross, saying Gingrich is being “crucified” by the GOP establishment. The Rev. Donald Wildman, the founder of the influential American Family Association, chimed in saying that her language was “tough” but “probably pretty accurate.”
Sure Newt has baggage, which he wholly admits to. But despite Mitt Romney’s carpet-bombing with negative ads, the truth is that Gingrich has been a staunch conservative over many decades. The same is not true for Mitt Romney.
I welcome the fact that Romney has become a strong Republican and is running for president. And during a recent debate, Gov. Romney said he had “become more conservative” as governor of Massachusetts. That’s a narrative that’s accurate and authentic. But Gov. Romney’s claims he’s always been a staunch Republican just don’t hold water.
The politics of division creates unintended consequences as well. Speaker Gingrich just told Politico this past weekend that he is going to fight Romney all the way to the convention.
Newt is triggering “the Reagan ’76 option.” In 1976 Reagan launched a primary battle against President Gerald Ford. Reagan knew that he had little chance of beating Ford, the incumbent president.
But he also believed that the Republican Party needed a vigorous alternative to the Democrats — “no pastels” as Reagan put it — and that the Ford-Nixon administrations, which had put through draconian wage and price controls, raised taxes, dramatically increased entitlement spending, devalued the dollar, and had been engaging in détente with the Soviets, was not offering that difference.
Reagan’s crusade to offer a stark difference with Nixon-Ford was totally despised by the GOP establishment. Reagan suffered in 1976 and, in fact, lost every Republican primary state all the way through March, when he had a surprise victory in North Carolina.
Reagan then went on to win every primary after North Carolina and took the GOP primary fight to the convention floor that year in Kansas City.
In the end, he lost to Ford by just a handful of delegates. As Romney plays the politics of division, Newt is solidifying himself as a conservative hero.
Newt tells me his decision to fight on to the convention is nothing personal with Romney; it’s about a struggle for the future of the Republican Party and the United States. He knows that in many blue states we now have one-party political systems.
Think places like California, Mitt’s home state of Massachusetts, New York, and many other states. An occasional Republican will win there, but usually by running to the left of the Democrat. The Republican Party in these blue states is often a charade.
This “Mexico-ification” of the United States into a one-party republic could happen, and it offers grave dangers.
I don’t want the United States to become like Mexico. I want a vigorous two-party system, and a candidate leading the GOP who offers a stark alternative to Barack Obama and the Democrats.
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