While there’s still a lot of road ahead in the 2012 presidential race, one fact is already clear: The eventual GOP nominee is probably going to leave a certain number of conservative Republicans wary, or even skeptical. The selection of a running mate will be even more important than usual, as it will be the biggest decision of the campaign and the clearest signal the nominee can send to GOP doubters looking for reassurance.
For Mitt Romney, numerous conservatives just don’t trust him. Between the health-care plan and individual mandate that he signed into law in Massachusetts and the leftover flip-flop charges from the 2008 cycle, many tea party–affiliated Republicans see Romney as too establishment, too moderate, too flexible, and too unprincipled to effectively carry their banner in the coming year. If the former governor wins the nomination, he will need a running mate who can restore confidence in him among the GOP base while avoiding a firebrand whose style and philosophy completely contrasts with Romney’s.
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