Several of my columns recently (here and here) were about the split in the Republican Party, a split between the realists and the purists. The realists want to win, and figure Mitt Romney is the one candidate who can beat President Obama. The purists also want to win but they also want a “real” conservative to win the nomination; they dislike Romney with a passion. The purists, I said, wouldn’t be happy until Ronald Reagan rises from the dead and hits the campaign trail.
I said I was on the realists’ side. I can live with Romney. That prompted a lot of angry mail from the purists, all of it expected, calling me all sorts of names, none of them good.
You’re a RINO, a lot of them said, indicating that I was a Republican in name only. Some went further saying my support for Mitt Romney showed the world that I was nothing more than a liberal Democrat. I’m entitled to write what I want and my readers are entitled to disagree, no matter how delusional some of them are.
In fairness, I did receive a good amount of mail from readers who agreed with me, saying they support Romney because they believe he’s got the best chance of winning. That was my point in the column – not that I think Romney is a principled conservative, which he clearly is not, but only that he’s got the best chance of winning the crucial independent vote, and making Barack Obama, like Jimmy Carter, a one term president.
If I had my way, I’d want Newt Gingrich to be president. Not only would he make Mr. Obama look silly in a debate, he’d make him wish he never left Chicago. Unlike some of the other conservative candidates, Gingrich is genuinely smart and has lots of interesting ideas. I wish Newt could win more than the debate. But, unless the polls are insanely wrong, he can’t get the nomination, let alone win the presidency.
The others – Bachmann, Perry, Santorum, Cain – are all “real” conservatives, but if anyone of them somehow got the nomination, it’s a (very) safe bet we’d have four more years of President Obama. I just can’t see moderates and independents embracing any of them. That’s why I said I’m with the realists who want Romney to win the nomination.
On the O’Reilly Factor the other night, Bill reminded me that a lot of those so-called purists would say to me: You want a moderate like Romney? We had a moderate last time around. And he lost!
I told Bill that John McCain lost mainly for four reasons: 1. Americans don’t usually elect a candidate from the same party three times in a row. 2. The financial meltdown crushed his chances. 3. W was an albatross around McCain’s neck, such was the widespread unpopularity of President Bush. 4. McCain lost because he was McCain. Obama was young, cool and energetic; he looked like tomorrow. McCain looked like yesterday. Americans don’t usually pick yesterday over tomorrow.
Then I told Bill that Romney is no McCain. Romney can win. He’s smart, attractive, and can beat Obama in a debate and win over those moderates independents.
But let me make one thing clear to those of you who think I’m a sell-out: I’m not a fan of Mitt Romney. When it comes to politics, he’s not principled. He gives flip-flop a bad name.
And no, he’s not a “real”conservative. But he’s more conservative than Barack Obama and in the real world we have to make hard decisions. Better to nominate Romney – a candidate who can beat Obama – than any of the others who are more conservative but would almost surely lose.
Here’s one more thing I’m pretty sure about: nothing I’ve written here will satisfy the purists. They are ideological warriors who are proud to stand by their precious principles even if it means defeat. They want everything their way. But that’s not how politics works. I want Gingrich, but I’ll compromise and take Romney. And that’s why I told Bill O’Reilly the other night that if Barack Obama wins re-election it will be because the conservative purists ensured the victory. If they manage to get one of their favorites, one of the “real” conservatives nominated, the Republican defeat will be theirs to explain. And if Romney is nominated and loses, you can expect another column from me. It will be entitled “Mea Culpa, Boy Was I Wrong!” But I don’t think I’ll have to write it.