“Real conservatives” never liked Mitt and never will. They say he’s not a principled conservative. They’re right. They see him as a “Massachusetts moderate” which is even worse than a regular moderate, a species of politician they hold in contempt. They see moderate pols – and the voters who support them – as soft, the opposite of how they see themselves, which is take-no-prisoners tough.
But now that Iowa is in the history books, it’s not just “anybody but Romney” anymore for the “real conservatives.” Now “anybody” is a real person, with a face, a voice and a name – Rick Santorum.
The “anybody but Romney” crowd would have been perfectly happy with any of the “real conservatives” in the race. They could have supported Michelle Bachmann if she was the one who emerged from the pack. But now she’s gone. They loved Herman Cain, but he went south and is now just a memory. They could gladly get behind Rick Perry, who will campaign in South Carolina before he drops out, too, if he doesn’t do well there. For a while they even liked Newt Gingrich. Not because they really liked him, but because he wasn’t Mitt Romney. They salivated over Sarah Palin and went into mourning when she said, Thanks but no thanks.
But now they’re all gone, or soon will be, leaving Rick Santorum as the great “real conservative” hope. They may give a whole bunch of reasons for liking Santorum, but make no mistake – he’s their guy first and foremost because he’s not Mitt Romney.
But here’s where my “real conservative” friends lose me. They seem to think Santorum can actually beat Barack Obama, even though he couldn’t even hang on to his Senate seat in Pennsylvania last time around, losing by 700,000 votes and winning just 41 percent of the vote against his Democratic opponent’s nearly 59 percent.
Most of all “real conservatives” don’t seem to understand that the election will pretty much be decided in nine swing states – Florida, Colorado, Nevada, New Hampshire, Ohio, North Carolina, Virginia, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin. Santorum would do great in places like Idaho, Wyoming, Utah, Mississippi and a bunch of other deep red conservative states. But the battleground states aren’t red as much as they’re purple – a mixture of blue and red. They’re moderate states filled with moderate voters. Will Republicans have the best shot at winning those crucial states if their candidate is the “real conservative,” the most conservative candidate left standing?
I get the impression that “real conservatives” don’t really understand moderates and independents. All they know for sure is that they don’t like them, that they don’t respect them, and that they think they’re no better than liberals. At least liberals believe in something, the “real conservatives” think. What the hell do these moderates and independents, who jump from one party to the other ever four years, believe in? And you know what “real conservatives” dislike most of all? Having to pander to the moderates and independents. Sometimes I think “real conservatives” would rather lose – standing by their precious principles, of course – than expend too much energy appealing to wishy-washy voters they don’t trust.
This is not an endorsement of Mitt Romney, veiled or otherwise. Despite the perfect hair, he’s far from the perfect candidate. And who knows, he might lose, too, if he comes off as “the white Obama,” as one caller to Rush Limbaugh’s radio show described him. As I have said in this space before: I want the most conservative candidate who can win to get the nomination. And, even with his near victory in Iowa, even with his sudden popularity, I’m having a hard time believing that Rick Santorum is that candidate.