Ann Coulter is wrong – and I say that, having been involved in the leadership of the national conservative movement for over 50 years, not as a “Johnny-come-lately conservative purist.”
I am frequently asked if Obama will be re-elected in 2012 and my answer is “not if Republicans nominate a principled, small government constitutional conservative for President.” That answer always seems to surprise establishment media types, and even some conservatives, such as Ann Coulter, because they assume that in order to win Republicans must run a content-free campaign around whichever candidate the establishment media has anointed as the “most electable.”
For the 2012 election cycle the establishment media long ago anointed former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney as the most electable Republican candidate for president, despite the fact that he has been stuck in the low- to mid-twenties for the entire five years he has been seeking the nomination.
By touting Romney as the most electable Republican, the establishment would have us believe that a candidate who is opposed by 75 percent, or more, of his own Party’s base can defeat a sitting president. This is complete nonsense, but it helps fill in a narrative that the Republican members of Washington’s inside elite must maintain in order to hold on to power.
The establishment Republican narrative is that average voters are as bereft of principles as they are, and thus all average voters care about is electing a Republican. This is exactly the opposite of what grassroots conservative voters want. They want a Republican nominee who will campaign on conservative policy solutions, build a constituency for conservative government and govern as a conservative once elected.
Grassroots conservatives and tea partiers see electing another business-as-usual establishment Republican as losing the election – and they are right. Conservatives long ago figured out that establishment Republicans run content-free campaigns so they sound conservative while running, but can govern as business-as-usual insiders once elected. This explains why for most of the past 40 years Republican presidential candidates from Jerry Ford, to Bob Dole, to the Bushes, to John McCain, have ended up at war with the conservative base of the party.
But this election cycle the old establishment Republican formula is failing, because in 2009 the tea party brought together a new coalition of conservative voters and the 2010 congressional elections proved that you don’t have to be content-free to win. Indeed, Republicans did better when they ran as unapologetic small-government conservatives and the face of the party was not the tired insiders of the Capitol Hill Republican Party.
In the 2012 election cycle the traditional triad of economic, social and defense conservatives coupled with the newly energized constitutional conservatives of the tea party movement would be unbeatable – behind a candidate that shares, and is willing to advocate and fight for conservative principles.
By personality, by his record as governor of Massachusetts and by his own political calculation Mitt Romney is not that candidate.
Running on conservative principles means drawing the bright lines necessary to define the difference between the conservative candidate and Washington’s old ways of business-as-usual, spend and tax and borrow – and it means fearlessly advocating the issues that will motivate conservative and tea party movement activists to work and vote.
Republicans need look no further than the recent state legislative elections in Virginia for instruction in how to lose the national campaign in 2012. In those campaigns where Republicans campaigned on the issues that brought out tea party and conservative voters, for the most part, they won – in those campaigns where the establishment ran message-free feel-good campaigns, featuring lots of smiling pictures of Governor Bob McDonnell, they lost the seats that could have realigned Virginia politics for a generation to come.
Ann Coulter has done great work calling liberals to account for their hypocrisy and follies, but she has missed the mark on the dynamics of the 2012 election.
In Mitt Romney establishment Republicans have the perfect vessel for the content-free campaigns they prefer to run, but Romney won’t spark the conservative revolution that is poised to sweep President Obama from the White House and elect down-ballot conservatives across the country. If conservatives acquiesce in the nomination of Romney, and Republicans run the content-free campaign his handlers plan, then Washington’s inside elite will maintain their hold on the Party, but at the cost of losing winnable elections for the Senate, Congress and governor and saddling America with another four years of Barack Obama as president.
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