Regarding a couple of recent posts here by James from Folsom and the Nihilist in Golf Pants, I should make it perfectly clear that if Mitt Romney is the endorsed GOP candidate in 2012 I will vote for him or maybe more accurately against President Obama. It will take some hard core rationalizing (and bourbon) to get me to the point where I can support Romney, but make no mistake about it I will be able to come around to that position. Eventually.
But for now there’s no reason for a conservative to engage in the mental gymnastics and willing suspension of disbelief to jump on the Romney bandwagon. There’s still time for us to explore alternatives and we should not be limited in our approach to that. Herman Cain doesn’t have the experience. Newt Gingrich couldn’t get elected. Really? It’s easy to write off the other candidates in the race and accept the depressing reality of Romney. Too many Republicans seem to have already done that and are walking around with heads low and shoulders shrugging saying , “I guess he’s really the only choice we have now.”
Balderdash. There will be time a plenty for us to figure out how we’re going to love the one we’re with later if Romney is indeed the nominee. Until then, we need to quit buying into the notion that it’s all but a done deal and we need to start coming together around Romney. That seems to the line that many among the Republican establishment are trying to peddle. Now is the time for good little Republicans to fall in line behind the presumptive nominee. You know, the guy who “looks presidential” and whose "turn has come"?
I say not so fast. Let’s make sure that we really understand the true strengths and weaknesses of the candidates and not just those that have been given attention through the narrow prism of the debates. Let’s make sure that before we settle for Romney, we don’t look past others who might not only make a better nominee, but a better president if they were elected. The field is still open. Let’s play it a bit more while we can.
UPDATE- Ramesh Ponnuru on why the Republican establishment prevails in the primaries:
Romney’s strength may seem puzzling. He is running as the establishment candidate: the one favored by the party apparatus, the big donors, the Republicans who care more about the party’s power than about ideology. We have been told again and again that the Republican rank and file is more hostile than ever to the party’s establishment, which they regard as a collection of sellouts. So how can Romney be on track to win the nomination?
The answer is that the Republican establishment almost always wins presidential-nomination contests, and conservative insurgents almost never do. Since 1984, nobody substantially to the right of the party establishment has won the nomination. Make a mental list of the last four Republican nominees -- George H.W. Bush, Bob Dole, George W. Bush and John McCain -- and the notion of a Romney victory in the primaries becomes less surprising.
Establishment-oriented candidates keep winning for two reasons. The first is that the party establishment has moved to the right, too, co-opting conservatives who might otherwise have overthrown it.
The second reason the establishment wins is that its opponents never unify behind another candidate. In 1988, conservatives who couldn’t support the establishment candidates split three ways. Pat Robertson ran as the social-conservative champion; Pete du Pont as the voice of economic libertarians; and Jack Kemp as the “movement conservative” who could unite both groups. The same pattern held in the next open nomination contest, in 1996, with Pat Buchanan, Steve Forbes and Phil Gramm playing these roles. Neither the social conservatives nor the economic libertarians could win the nomination on their own, but their attempt to do so made it impossible to assemble a winning coalition combining the most conservative elements of the party.