Why no, says Forbes contributor Richard Miniter:
The facts and evidence tell a different story.
Romney has never won a majority (50% or better) of Republican primary or caucus voters. And, two-thirds of the time, he has had to spend vast sums just to claim the number two spot.
Tomorrow’s GOP primary in Florida may change that—but it won’t settle the issue of Romney’s electability. Romney enjoys leads in polls ranging from between five to 15 points. But he and his super-PACs had to spend more than $15 million in television advertising and millions more in radio spots and targeted mailings. If anything, Romney’s price per vote is rising—an unsustainable model given campaign-finance limits.
USA Today provides some figures to buttress Miniter’s point about the sheer volume of money the Mittster has had to spend to barely beat his GOP rivals who have far fewer financial resources with which to compete:
A new study out today by the Wesleyan Media Project shows Romney and his allies, particularly the Restore Our Future super PAC, have aired 12,768 ads in Florida compared with 210 for Gingrich and his allies.
Romney and Restore Our Future spent a combined $6.28 million on Florida ads in the final week leading to the primary, according to figures provided to the Associated Press. Most of that spending — $4 million — comes from Restore Our Future. AP contrasts that with $700,000 spent in the same period by Gingrich and $1.5 million by Winning Our Future.
Politico reports Gingrich has been outspent by $12 million on the Florida airwaves, according to an unnamed “source monitoring the Sunshine State ad war.” That breaks down to $15.3 million for Romney and Restore Our Future vs. about $3.4 million for Gingrich and Winning Our Future.
That’s a staggering amount of money. It’s amazing that a guy who’s been running for president for nearly a decade now has to burn through that much cash just to get 40% of Republicans to support him against woefully underfunded, and arguably flawed, rival candidates. The geniuses in the Republican Establishment, presumably, want us to believe this is evidence of Mitt’s charm and electability. Miniter continues:
Maybe it’s time to ask why so many voters prefer almost anyone to Romney. Let’s take a look at some issues that, so far, have gotten very little media attention.
Romney is not an election winner. He lost in his U.S. Senate race to unseat Ted Kennedy and decided not to seek re-election as governor, largely because he would have almost certainly lost. And he lost to John McCain in 2008, which is not exactly playing the varsity. Could he win in 2012? Arguably, but not definitely.
Romney is not a strong debater. Certainly he improved greatly in the most recent Florida debate, but he still trails Santorum and Gingrich in his ability to woo a crowd. While debates, by themselves, do not determine elections, they move marginal voters one way or the other. A strong debate performance will be essential to defeating Obama for the Republican nominee.
Romney is not a tax-cutter. Yes, he has a great record as turn-around artist in the private sector, saving dozens of companies and rescuing the Salt Lake City Olympics. He certainly deserves the money he has made and he has made a lot of money for shareholders. But that is micro-economics. Presidents do macro-economics: taxes, spending, regulation, federal reserve and national debt. As governor of Massachusetts, he agreed to more than 500 tax and fee increases. He didn’t even propose an income-tax cut.
You say that tax cuts are impossible in Tax-achussets? A ballot initiative to completely abolish the state income tax won nearly 30% of the vote in 2009 referendum there. A tax-rate cut, which would be far more reasonable and politically possible, backed by formidable former governor and fundraiser, could well have passed. Romney did not even try.
Nor is Romney proposing to cut income-tax rates at the federal level. Since Reagan, every major contender for the Republican nomination has proposed trimming income-tax rates—except Romney. When questioned about this by the Wall Street Journal’s Paul Gigot, Romney’s response spoke volumes. He said he hadn’t yet had the chance to model the economic effects of cutting income taxes.
Romney is not a Reaganite reformer. Romney is not planning to abolish or privatize any significant federal functions. Again, this sets him apart from most people seeking the Republican nomination over the past three decades. It also makes him the darling of the GOP establishment, as many have lobbying deals linked to federal largesse. But it turns off many Tea Partiers and other conservatives who worry about ballooning federal deficits and a national debt now equal to the value of the entire U.S. economy.
Indeed, it seems as if Romney’s policies are on auto-pilot from the 2008 campaign—before the Tea Party emerged as a force in Republican politics. While his platform has changed at the margins, it has not been changed in a bold enough fashion to win the enthusiastic support of the Tea Party movement. Without their support, the GOP could lose key U.S. Senate and House races in 2012 and, indeed, the presidency.
To be sure, other candidates have their warts too.
But Romney’s best hope is that all of the non-Romney candidates stay in. His strategy amounts to this: one-third of the primary vote beats two-thirds divided by three. But it doesn’t beat two-thirds divided by two. If either Gingrich or Santorum exit, the survivor could beat Romney.
The problem for Romney is that the general election is a two-man race. To be “electable,” he needs all of the Republican votes plus slightly more than one-half of independent votes. So far, he has not shown he can command that much support.
Be sure to go here and read Miniter’s entire piece. He presents a methodical, well-reasoned, and compelling case for what’s been crystal clear form the very beginning to the conservative base: Contrary to the musings of our beltway betters, His Mittness is neither conservative, palatable…or electable. He is what he is.