by Mark Paxson of King Midget Ramblings
Only three weeks into the barnstorming Republican primary season, after Iowa and New Hampshire and South Carolina, it appears to be down to two. Mitt Romney or Newt Gingrich. Which, of course, leads to the all important question. Which nominee would give the Democrats the best opportunity to win in November?
Every poll I’ve seen over the last few months suggests that Newt Gingrich would be trounced by Barack Obama in a general election, while showing that Mitt Romney would run close to even. There’s some logic to that. On some level, Mitt Romney seems more middle-of-the-road and more appealing to the vast middle. Newt Gingrich, on the other hand, spends his words on appealing to the rightest portion of the Republican Party.
But, imagine if you live in a blue state world, where Occupy Wall Street is a larger movement than the Tea Party. Where people are outraged at the bankers who caused the economic meltdown rather than blaming it on politicians. Where there’s still a belief that government can do some good rather than belief that government is the cause of all evil. In that world, one can begin to imagine that Mitt Romney is the perfect foil for Barack Obama in 2012.
In many respects, the former governor of Massachusetts is the Republican answer to John Kerry, who oddly enough was also from Massachusetts. Wealthy beyond most people’s wildest dreams. Both of them tried desperately to appear like a regular Joe, only to fail miserably. Aloof. Disconnected. Not one of the guys. I think that pretty much describes, rightly or wrongly, the general sense of both John Kerry and Mitt Romney. There was nothing the former could do in 2004 to shake that sense and, if national elections are about anything, they are about a candidate’s ability to connect with voters.
Add to Mitt Romney’s inability to really connect with voters the fact that he represents the evils of Wall Street in a time when the blue state world sees the economic meltdown as being caused by Wall Street and one can begin to see why Democrats may prefer him as the opposition candidate. Seriously. He made millions, and continues to make millions each year off his work as a corporate raider. An investor who bought companies in distress, fired thousands of employees, loaded those companies with massive debt, and then walked away with millions of dollars in profit for himself and investors. He actually, for the most part, did nothing to actually create value for anybody but Bain’s partners and investors.
Mitt Romney can be seen as the poster child of what is wrong with the corporate world in America today. Creating long-lasting value to benefit society, employees, companies, and to further progress isn’t the actual point. Instead, he represents the true selfishness of the “greed is good” mentality. And, let’s not forget he’s Mormon and ridiculously unpopular within his own party. Let’s not forget the massive flip-flops he has engaged in – virtually everything he was for as Governor of Massachusetts he is now against as he runs for President. One can begin to see why Democrats may want him as the Republican candidate.
Me, I’d still prefer Newt Gingrich. It may be true that he would be able to energize the Republican base more than Mitt Romney could, but that’s the extent of what he would get in a general election. He is so polarizing, so locked into a rock-solidly right-wing conservative approach to the world, I can’t imagine him making inroads to that vast middle of the electorate. His scorn, rising to a level of an absolutely lack of class, for Barack Obama would damage him in a general election. What many Republicans, particularly of the right-wing variety, don’t realize is that there is still a lot of respect and admiration for Barack Obama. Many voters on the left and in the middle actually connect with him, even if they don’t necessarily approve of all of his actions or policies. The manner in which Newt Gingrich speaks of the President won’t help him with those voters.
On the other hand, I still fear Mitt Romney as a candidate who, once the primaries are over, can relatively easily move back towards the middle and present himself in a way that the middle may find appealing. I can’t see Newt Gingrich ever being capable of such a move. Mitt Romney wants to win. Newt Gingrich wants to expand his ego – he’s too narcissistic, too egomaniacal to ever lessen his Newtness to win a national, general election.
Photo credit: thedailybeast.coms
Ed.Note: MidLifeBloggers is still looking for a Republican blogger to balance Mark Paxson on our weekly Election 2012 post. Interested? Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org