Considering Rick Santorum's sudden departure from the race, it's time to quit dancing around and bluntly state what the problem is for the man likely to become the Republican nominee for president.
Republicans and others who consider themselves part of the "conservative wing" of the party, with some exceptions, stiff-armed Romney early on based on the belief that he was not one of them and could be defeated. But now, as the nomination looks increasingly his, the Romney camp is stiff-arming that same wing of the party. The question is, can money alone buy one the presidency?
There is true irony in this dance between the Romney camp and those who are "keepers of the conservative flame." Both sides want to defeat President Obama, but neither has the true desire to really do what it takes to unify a critical portion of the vote whose turnout in November will be critical to a Republican victory. Romney's conservative doubters, along with much of America, according to a recent poll, don't view him as "likeable." At the same time, those who know Mitt Romney and who have over years worked with him, say he is a great guy and would follow him anywhere at any time.
Yes, Romney has held numerous meetings with conservative leaders and some meetings with past or present Republican presidential opponents. The problem is that he reportedly never offers any hope of their being part of his campaign, much less part of a potential Romney presidential administration. Some might say that he has no responsibility to do so, but in the world of real, live politics, when the stakes are so high, the failure to reach out and, quite frankly, cut deals early is perplexing. More perplexing is why the "warm" Mitt Romney never comes through in reaching out to supporters he will desperately need in November.
The result of the current circumstances leads to incidents such as Rush Limbaugh (who remains a huge voice among Republicans and conservatives regardless of a recent controversy that has already died down) to basically declare that the Republican "establishment" won the nomination in a race in which it was Romney and "all the others which were conservatives." Limbaugh's comments do not flow from the top down. Rather, they bubble up from his massive base of followers and become part of his observations.
So, why the decision of the "running on fumes" Newt Gingrich to stay in the race and make rather tough statements about Romney in a Newsmax exclusive just hours after Santorum suspended his campaign? Why do the likes of Rush and other major conservative voices seem so uninspired about a Romney nomination? The answer can be found in the way many of these conservative leaders view the mindset of the Romney campaign, as apparently often voiced by none other than ... the Romney campaign.
It seems that the perception among many conservative leaders and pundits is that Mitt Romney or his campaign strategists believe that they will amass so much money and spend it so effectively against Barack Obama that having the support of a Gingrich (who likely to them seems out of touch and counterproductive) or certain core voices in the conservative movement is not necessary. They assume conservative voices and leaders will come along for the ride. At least that is how many in the "conservative wing" view the circumstances as present.
But these conservative Republicans want evidence now that they will be part of the Romney effort and that it will remain a conservative-oriented one at that.
I have no doubt that Team Romney feels it has the secret formula to electoral success down to a science. Spend the money, shred the opponent on air and remain cool, and given current circumstances in our economy, they will win.
There is only one small part of the equation they are lacking: Barack Obama. This continued underestimation of the talents, guile and tenacity of Obama and his team simply amazes me. Barack Obama is a machine — wired, funded, programmed and ready to destroy. My guess is that by early November, Mitt Romney will feel as if he has been hit by a Facebook, Twitter, television ad, robo-call, community-organized laden freight train. The national media will have torn him to shreds and tossed his good name to the garbage can.
To defeat Barack Obama, Romney will need all the friends he can get. He better start warming up, making deals and kissing tails now. If he does so, he would only join the club of every other person elected president. If he waits too long, or selectively chooses his conservative friends, November will be a very unpleasant month.
Matt Towery heads the polling and political information firm InsiderAdvantage. Follow him on Twitter @matttowery. To find out more about Matt Towery and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate website at www.creators.com.