Mitt Romney’s campaign announced that he is suspending his campaign for the Republican nomination for the 2008 Presidential race.
Despite spending an estimated $40 million dollars of his own money, running as an outsider intent on change, and securing the support of heavyweight conservative commentators, including Rush Limbaugh, Sean Hannity, Ann Coulter, and Laura Ingraham, Romney was unable to secure a victory in the race. According to CNN.com, Romney only won 286 delegates compared to 714 for the leader, John McCain.
So why didn’t Romney win?
Trying to be Something He Wasn’t
Howard Fineman from Newsweek suggests Romney’s failure may be because he positioned himself as a different person than the Romney most people knew him to be.
A board room and business favorite, a man with a Midas managerial touch, he was widely admired and even beloved. But he was a Republican of an old moderate school-that of his own father-and, like George W. Bush, Romney the Younger decided that he had to jettison all that he was to become something that he was not.
Fineman goes on to point out that if Romney had spent less time trying to prove that he was ultra conservative and more time pointing out his business acumen, he may have been able to secure the nomination.
Also working against Romney may have been his religion. Indeed, many of his victories outside of states where he had strong political ties (Michigan and Massachusetts) were in the west where the Mormon religion is more widely known and accepted. Additionally, as Mark Daniels points out at TheModerateVoice.com, Mitt Romney seemed to want to have his religion both ways, echoing Kennedy when saying his Mormonism didn’t matter in terms of Govenrning, but then trying to appeal to the conservative base by highlighting how important religion, specifically Christianity, was for America.
It’s the Economy Stupid
In trying to reinvent himself, Romney tried to position himself as ultra-conservative as Bush, with the same “values” oriented belief system. When the economy is tanking, inflation on the rise, recession is threatening, gas prices are through the roof, the war in Iraq is dragging on forever, it probably wasn’t the best decision to link yourself to the administration who presided over the mess.
When people are losing their jobs, paying more for everything, and worried about their futures, conservative hot button issues like gay marriage and abortion suddenly aren’t as important as simply getting relief. Perhaps voters sensed more of the same with Romney.
People are Tired of Divisive Politics
The most hopeful sign is that the abrasive, divisive voices of people like Rush Limbaugh, Ann Coulter, and Sean Hannity have fallen on deaf ears this primary election. All of them have viciously attacked a member of their own party because he had a history of trying to work in a bipartisan manner. With change being the buzzword of this election, perhaps Republican voters realized that the divisive politics of the last 16 or more years have done little to move the country forward. Playing to the base indicating that you’ll never compromise may no longer be the way of getting Republican voters on board with you as a candidate.
With Romney out of the race, it will be interesting to see how hard McCain works to rebuild his ties to the Republican base, and who McCain ultimately winds up picking as his running mate. Some have suggested that Romney’s exit was a way of marginalizing third place candidate Mike Huckabee and positioning himself as McCain’s Vice-president.
No matter how this shakes out, this is shaping up to be the most interesting election in decades.