Can Mitt Romney Close the Deal With Conservatives?
Mitt Romney secured double wins in Arizona and Michigan Tuesday night—but they didn’t come easily. Former Sen. Rick Santorum, who has spent much of the campaign on the fringes, challenged Romney in Michigan polls in the lead-up to the contest, and the primary was initially too close to call when voting ended. This is especially worrisome for the Romney campaign considering Michigan is his home state—his father George Romney was governor—and that Mitt Romney beat eventual GOP nominee Sen. John McCain there handily by 10 percentage points in 2008. This time he beat Santorum by only 3 percent, even while outspending Santorum 2-to-1 in the state.
Romney’s struggle to solidify Michigan reflects a larger trend for the former governor of Massachusetts, as the conservative wing of the Republican electorate refuses to coalesce behind the candidate, at times described as the “inevitable” nominee. Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich had already upset Romney in South Carolina, and Romney essentially tied with Santorum in Iowa before that. Furthermore, Romney’s tactics have been largely negative, his campaign vehicle nicknamed the “Death Star” as he and his associated super PAC Restore Our Future have barraged markets with attack ads to defeat challengers. Conservatives are skeptical of his record, including his healthcare reform in Massachusetts as governor and his claim that “I’ll be better than Ted Kennedy on gay rights” when he ran for Kennedy’s Senate seat 1994.
Romney has the money and the organization to last through the GOP 2012 race. However, even if he does become the eventual nominee, defeating President Obama in November will be especially challenging without the support of conservatives. Can he win them over? Here is Debate Club’s take: