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Roger Simon
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The GOP Is in Like With Romney

Comment

Is there something about Mitt Romney that makes you warm, but not hot?

Is he the third date you never show up for?

Is he the inevitable nominee of the Republican Party this summer, just so he can be the inevitable loser to Barack Obama this fall?

Tuesday night, a night Romney would win big in the big state of Illinois, there were still signs that the Republican Party was in like, but not in love, with him.

NBC "Nightly News" quoted Bob Michel, who was for 38 years a Republican congressman from Peoria and who has endorsed Romney, as saying Romney is "not a very exciting candidate who can rally the party around him" and is lacking in "that magical spark."

Monday, Politico's Reid Epstein had quoted Michel as saying of Romney: "He's not overwhelming, that's the problem through the whole damn primary. What's the spark? What's the thing that gets him off and running? No one knows."

And this is a guy who likes Mitt Romney! This is a guy who has endorsed Mitt Romney and wants others to vote for Mitt Romney!

Yet Michel is still walking around in the dark, looking for a spark. Or a glimmer. Or a glow. Or maybe even just a glint.

Not that long ago, it seemed as if Obama was going to be the inevitable loser in this presidential race. The economy was lousy, conservatives loathed him, and liberals were disappointed with him.

And he no longer seemed to have the same spark himself. Last time around, Obama's victory was a historic event. Casting a vote for an African-American undoubtedly made some people feel they were part of a new, better history of this country, one that showed everyone how America and its system of government were still the world's greatest hope.

But you can't capture that particular lightning in a bottle a second time. History has been made. That dream had been dreamt and fulfilled. The poetry was written, and now Obama needed the tough prose of accomplishment to win.

Or so we thought. Until something wonderful happened for Obama. Something very, very lucky. (And, in my opinion, most successful politicians are lucky politicians.)

Like a poker player drawing an inside straight, Barack Obama drew the Republican field.

Without bringing up ancient history like Michele Bachmann, Herman Cain or Rick Perry, let's just look at who the Republicans still have sitting around the table: Romney, Rick Santorum, Newt Gingrich and Ron Paul.

Sometimes you have strong fields, sometimes you have weak fields, and sometimes you have one guy who could possibly win the presidency and three guys who might have just a wee bit of trouble persuading people their hands should be on the nuclear button.

But, wait, Obama gets even luckier!

Elections are not decided on personalities alone, but also on how candidates grapple with the issues of the day and how they persuade voters they understand the voters' problems and can solve them.

So what are two issues that have dominated headlines during this primary season? The accusation that Republicans are waging a war against women (or, at least, fighting for control over women's bodies) and also are indifferent or hostile to the aspirations of Latinos.

Without going through a whole bunch of numbers, you know two groups that might be important in November? Women is one, and Latinos is another.

And Republicans seem intent on ticking off both.

Last time, Obama won the presidency by 7.2 percentage points. I doubt he expects to win by that much this time — the country is deeply divided, and the economy is still lousy.

So let's say Obama wins by only half that much. Let's say he wins by less than half that much.

Let's say he wins by only 2 or 3 percentage points.

You know what? He still gets to be president! And you know how many people will remember how many votes Obama won by? Maybe Obama. And John King. Maybe a few others. But not many.

Don't believe me? Bill Clinton won the presidency twice. You remember by how much? Me, neither (though Wikipedia tells me it was by 5.6 percentage points the first time and by 8.5 percentage points the second time).

I do know that both times Clinton got only a plurality of the popular vote and not a majority (and I know he hated that), but you know what? He got to be president anyway!

It takes a lot to beat an incumbent president. It happens, of course. (Clinton beat an incumbent president the first time.) But that big, robin's egg blue and white jet with "United States of America" on its side and a candidate like Obama who has shown real skill on the stump is not going to lose just because gasoline prices are too high or he wants health care for every American.

Somebody is going to have to beat him. A Republican has got to take the job away from him.

It can be done. But it is going to take someone with skill and guts and luck.

And maybe even a little spark.

To find out more about Roger Simon, and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate webpage at www.creators.com.

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