Mitt Romney aka the Weathervane has won, as expected, the DC, Maryland and Wisconsin primaries. The Republican nomination isn’t over, but the fat lady is definitely approaching the microphone. Now I had thought that the Weathervane has only one strength as a candidate: not Obama. However, Stuart Rothenberg today hit upon another strength that I had not considered:
Despite all his conservative rhetoric — on taxes, government spending, traditional marriage, immigration, abortion and health care — conservatives aren’t buying it. They believe that Romney is simply pandering to them because he knows that is what he needs to do to lock up the Republican nomination.
Whether it is his multiple positions over the years on abortion, his support for an individual mandate in Massachusetts, his Mormon faith or simply his profile as a wealthy, impeccably dressed businessman, the most conservative Republican voters (many of whom are evangelicals) don’t believe that he is a passionate conservative who is ready to take on the political establishment.
What’s interesting about Romney and his supporters is that, despite his conservative rhetoric, moderates and country club conservatives continue to support his candidacy.
Think about it. Romney, who stresses his opposition to abortion, talks tough on immigration and rules out a tax increase even to help cut the deficit, continues to get the support of pragmatic conservatives who reject former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum’s ideological rigidity, thought Rep. Michele Bachmann (Minn.) was too conservative and viewed Texas Gov. Rick Perry as a bomb thrower.
Clearly, establishment Republicans also don’t believe Romney when he talks about his views and his agenda. If they did, they probably would feel about him the same way they feel about Santorum or Bachmann.
Romney’s great asset is that these voters figure he is merely pandering to evangelicals and the most conservative element of the GOP when he talks about cultural issues, immigration and taxes.
The bottom line, of course, is that nobody — not his critics and not his allies — really believes Mitt Romney.
The Washington Post’s Dan Balz pointed out to me recently that this makes Romney something like the opposite of what Barack Obama was in 2008.
Four years ago, Obama, who had only a thin legislative record and was known to have voted “present” on a number of important votes in the Illinois Legislature, was so ill-formed in the minds of voters that many could project their own hopes and dreams onto him, giving him considerable appeal among a wide range of voters.
People liked Obama, so they figured out a way to find themselves in agreement with him — even if they had no reason to believe that he really held the views they ascribed to him.
The question is whether, in November, Romney may be in a similar position as Obama was or whether the fact that nobody actually believes Romney will destroy his presidential bid completely.
Is Romney such a mass of contradictions that voters can look at him and project their positions on him, allowing them to support him? Or is his credibility so shot that too many voters will simply conclude that they can’t trust him, making it impossible for them to support him?
Go here to read the rest. I can see the campaign slogan now: In Your Heart You Know He’s Fibbing.