Debate Club

Electability Must Be the Core of Romney's Message

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Former Gov. Mitt Romney can close the deal with conservatives, but he's going to have to pull a fast break on former Sen. Rick Santorum's gogoplata. If he can't, the GOP primary will run three rounds and make his general election bid all the more exigent.

Romney's problem is his wavering narrative. His perdurable, roily message has only served to exacerbate the right's reluctance to embrace his candidacy. He has allowed his opponents to control the agenda and has spent too much time on a jack-of-all-trades defense. Which short shrifts his most attractive selling point: electability.

[See a collection of political cartoons on Mitt Romney.]

If yesterday's exit polls are an indication, electability remains the main criterion of most GOP voters' vote choice. Sixty-one percent of Romney's Michigan voters chose him because of his potential to beat President Obama, and 38 percent said the same in Arizona. Despite Santorum's co-option of the campaign agenda over Obama's contraceptives mandate, electability is the core message Romney needs to push into Super Tuesday—not quantifying the degree of his conservatism or indeterminate stance on social issues.

Romney will be aided by Santorum's meteoric drop in the polls. Santorum's poor debate performance and claim that President Kennedy's 1960 religious freedom speech was a causative agent of emesis alienate a good portion of middle-of-the-road conservatives. Voters are more concerned with lifting the restrictions on job growth, not increasing them on contraceptives.

[See a collection of political cartoons on Rick Santorum.]

Romney will most likely win the nomination, but he needs to close the deal next week. Republicans will rally around their nominee, regardless of name, but a long slog to the finish will place an increasing financial burden on his campaign. And that could leave him devitalized going into the general election.

Jamie Chandler

About Jamie Chandler Professor at Hunter College

Tags
Romney, Mitt
2012 presidential election
Santorum, Rick

Other Arguments

#1
76 Pts
Mitt Romney Struggles to Attract Conservative Support

No – Mitt Romney Struggles to Attract Conservative Support

Ford O'Connell Republican Strategist, Conservative Activist, and Political Analyst

#3
40 Pts
Romney Will Have Conservative Support When He Faces Obama

Yes – Romney Will Have Conservative Support When He Faces Obama

David Crockett Author of 'Running Against the Grain: How Opposition Candidates Win Presidential Election'

#5
9 Pts
Conservatives Won't Vote for Barack Obama

Yes – Conservatives Won't Vote for Barack Obama

Fergus Cullen Former Chairman of the New Hampshire Republican Party

#6
-6 Pts
Mitt Romney Is Simply Unelectable

No – Mitt Romney Is Simply Unelectable

Judson Phillips Founder of Tea Party Nation

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