I wrote a post back in August suggesting that former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney might benefit from retooling his message to focus more on fiscal matters and the economy, or even on defense issues. Anything that would prevent him from trying once again to outdo other 2012 Republican presidential hopefuls on their own social conservative turf would benefit his candidacy. In the past when Romney has tried to base jump other candidates like former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee and former Tennessee Senator Fred Thompson with social and religious conservatives, he has been largely ridiculed as a phony, or as at least a Johnny-come-lately to their agenda.
Romney seems to have internalized all of this, as evidenced by his speech this past weekend at the Values Voters Summit in Washington, D.C., an annual gathering of social and religious conservatives that has become a regular stop on the Republican presidential hopeful circuit. His speech focused almost exclusively on fiscal and defense issues, while largely avoiding the conservative social agenda. He of course cannot avoid touching on issues like abortion and gay marriage completely, but he can repackage himself in a way that opens up the potential for some larger coalition-building within the party, which would ultimately make him a stronger general election candidate.
Viewed in that light, it is actually not such a bad outcome for Romney that he finished a distant second to Huckabee in the Values Voters presidential straw poll. He will never outshine Huckabee with this crowd, and he only needs to pick off some of their votes. There are enough doubts within the broader party about Huckabee and other religious conservative favorites like former Alaska Governor Sarah Palin as general election candidates that this is not an unrealistic goal. A much bigger challenge for Romney will be Minnesota Governor Tim Pawlenty, who I think has the same sort of potential for assembling a broader electoral coalition within the party.
Posted On: 09-22-2009 18:54:27 by Jim Splaine
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