By Robert Schlesinger |
Former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney not only dodged a bullet in Michigan on Tuesday, but also he regained his front-runner status for the Republican nomination and extended his lead in delegates. Yet, he continues to struggle to attract conservative support.
His attempts to communicate with conservatives in language he thinks they will understand and appreciate seem forced, awkward, and gaffe-prone. No matter how hard Romney tries to connect, he seems to turn off conservatives and damage his credibility with independents. Passion and conservative rhetoric simply aren't his strong points, and it's doubtful he ever will develop these skills.
Romney also has tried to engage conservatives through "big ideas," such as his recently revised tax plan. But most consider this only a modest step in the right direction and continue to seek something bolder from him.
Unless Romney somehow learns to connect with conservatives or comes up with a breakthrough idea to ignite the base, the only way he can close the deal is by winning primaries without tearing down the rest of the field.
That starts with Ohio on Super Tuesday. Unlike Michigan, which, for now, seems likely to go for President Obama in November, the Buckeye State is a true test of general election strength. If Romney can win by making the case that he is the Republican candidate best suited to put Ohio and the country back on track economically—and not by carpet-bombing the field into submission—he will have likely all but wrapped up the nomination.
Romney ultimately may not ever win over conservatives. But if he continues to rely heavily on negative advertising to win contests, he risks losing conservatives in the general election (if he hasn't already). Romney must remember that conservatives may well oppose his candidacy for the duration of the primary season, but they are eager to defeat President Obama. So, even if he can't win them over, he needs to make sure he doesn't turn them off so much that they stay home during the general election and give President Obama another four years.
About Ford O'Connell Republican Strategist, Conservative Activist, and Political Analyst
David Crockett Author of 'Running Against the Grain: How Opposition Candidates Win Presidential Election'
Lara Brown Professor at Villanova University