Interesting Republican Problems

We were talking about Mitt Romney at lunch yesterday and it seems to me that he represents a real problem for the Republican establishment. The base isn’t thrilled about him, but he’s so obviously the best candidate. Here’s what I think the Republican dilemma is. There are large segments of the American public who consistently vote Democrat who would be more at home with the Republicans–church-going Hispanics and Blacks, especially rural church-going Hispanics and Blacks–except that the Republicans have been such obvious odious choads to Hispanics and Blacks that they can’t gain a foothold in those communities. Mormons are, speaking broadly, an enormous and growing conservative base. They vote and vote Republican.

If the Republicans run Mitt Romney and Republicans don’t vote for him, it’s not just a matter of them losing their best shot against Obama. They risk losing Mormons. If Mormons feel that they can’t run for national office as Republicans because the Republican base objects to their religion, that’s going to be yet another growing segment of obviously conservative voters who can’t be comfortable in the Republican party.

And I think that’s part of the panic on the part of the Republican Party. If we just looked at the Republican candidates objectively–Romney would be the obvious choice. But can they afford to run Romney now and risk that his loss will alienate Mormons? Or do they ask him to wait four years and see how much attitudes have changed by then?

I also think the Beth Harwell problem is interesting. I mean, it makes sense to me that someone is polling to see how she’d run against Cooper. Harwell’s bright, she appeals to urban conservatives, and she holds the leadership of the State House. Of course she looks destined for bigger things. Yes, she was just elected Speaker of the House, but that’s the problem (and also why I’d bet $10 that the national GOP is behind the polling). Harwell should have a long political career ahead of her. I’m not sure she could beat Cooper now, but she definitely will NOT be able to beat Cooper if she becomes too closely associated with the anti-gay, anti-urban, anti-First-Amendment, pro-woo-hoo-we’re-idiots agenda of Tennessee Republicans. And as the leader of the House, she’s a really visible face to their movement.

So, the problem the GOP has is figuring out how long she can sit as Speaker and not become tainted beyond electability when they need her for bigger and better things.

The interesting thing about them polling to run her against Cooper now is that it indicates that the GOP believes that window is quite small.

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7 thoughts on “Interesting Republican Problems

  1. If Harwell feels caught up in that dilemma, I have a suggestion for her: use her leadership position to distance the TNGOP as a party and the House as an institution from all that we-are-Republicans-because-we-hate-people stuff. Like, change the party’s agenda in the House, maybe using the explanation that trying to fix the economy is more important or something like that. That would show her to be an effective leader, and distance her from the taint that presumably worries her.

    Oh, wait, I forgot….

  2. Eh, Romney has so many other negatives, chief among them being his flip-flopping on every issue, they’ll just write it off to that, not his religion. They’ll even say nice things about his religion, just you watch. You know, his healthcare law is an obvious twin of the hated “Obamacare,” and he’s taken dubious positions on issues anathema to the base like choice and gay marriage. Voters can easily point to any number of other things as the excuse for why Romney won’t get their vote.

    And some Mormons may choose to think it was the religion not the man, but others won’t. He’s got other obvious negatives.

    What I don’t understand is why the other Mormon in the race, the least crazy of everyone, isn’t ever part of these discussions. If I were a Republican I’d be all over Huntsman because he doesn’t have the Obamacare issue, and he’s not stiff as a board and such an obvious phony. But the way these things work is, it’s Romney’s TURN, dammit! He’s been a good boy, just like John McCain was a good boy when Bush got elected, so he got it last time. And McCain is older than dirt, 2008 was his last shot, everyone knew it, Romney was told to GET IN LINE and WAIT YOUR TURN. And now along comes the Tea Party who isn’t having any of that crap.

    I just think it’s really, really funny.

  3. I don’t disagree with any of your analysis, B, but the most important thing about Romney is that he’s a white and (nominally) conservative man. My belief is that most potential Republican voters will hold their nose (if necessary) and vote for Romney if he gets the GOP nod, because anything-but-the-nigger/liberal/Democrat.

    That said, We the People shoved ourselves down the rabbit hole long ago, and if you weren’t concerned by the ascendancy of a clown like Sarah Palin, then I don’t know what will trip your alarm. Herman Cain (the current GOP frontrunner, though that may have changed by now) is an even more vile and transparent joke, and his stamina even up to this point is a sure sign that the GOP is a festering zombie. Of course, they’re kept undead because the Democratic Party keeps feeding them working people’s brains. Not that we were using them, anyway. I shall leave off this rickety train of thought without any Green Party advocacy whatsoever.

  4. Aunt B.,

    You are spot on regarding the damage that some of the anti-Mormon arguments against Romney are doing to support from Mormons. The problem is that Mormons see themselves as Christians and some Christians find Mormonism to be unreconcilable with the Teachings of Christ.

    This might have more of an impact were it not that Mormons remember that is was good old Senator Ted Kennedy who used the anti-Mormon card in 1994 to stave off Romney’s challenge. One suspects that Mormons might be less offended by serious theological differences than by cynical Mormon-bashing.

    One reason we Republicans have such limited options for President is that we have too many Senators who should have retired one term {or more} ago. We also had some promising Governors who are not interested in running {Mitch Daniels, Haley Barbour, Chris Christie}.

    Regarding Speaker Harwell, I think you may be right that the RNC wants her to stay Speaker. Cooper is a good candidate {unless you use a red truck in which case he might have flashbacks and melt down} and Davidson County’s demographics are very favorable to Democrats. For example, 20% of the county is over 65, 20% is black and there are large numbers of municipal and state workers as well as a solid block of higher education-related voters. Even assuming some overlap in groups, Davidson is reliably Democratic from the Congressional level down.

    Any effort to redistrict Nashville into a Republican seat would be complex and could put the 6th district in play, something that Republicans would be loathe to do given Diane Black’s quick rise.

    And, it is important to remember that after 1971 the Democrats in the Legislature consolidated much of the powers of the Governor into the hands of the Speakers. The idea was that Republicans might be able to elect Governors now and then but they would never get control of the Legislature.

    So moving from Speaker to a very junior member of Congress would not be a promotion. Power in Tennessee flows out of the legislature not out of DC. If she had the chance to become the first woman elected to Congress from Tennessee who isn’t following her late husband, that might be an incentive but she would only be the third. And she might not win against Cooper. All in all, it seems unlikely that she would risk so much for so little.

    SB,

    Being a flip flopper might be a particularly fatal flaw in 2012 given the disgust with politics as usual. However in a time of 9% unemployment, if Romney has an economic plan that resonates with voters, he can win. And it is not impossible that at a time when swing voters are getting fed up with ideological purists on both sides, a highly competent if unprincipled, candidate might be a refreshing alternative.

    Regarding Huntsman, I could not agree more. Huntsman looks like the most credible statesman to run for President since Bob Kerry or Howard Baker.

  5. > What I don’t understand is why the other Mormon in the race, the least crazy of everyone, isn’t ever part of these discussions.

    Huntsman is unelectable as a Republican 2011, more because he is an “over-educated elite” than because he is a Mormon. Tea Partiers won’t support a candidate who admits that there *are* languages other than English, and Huntsman goes and *speaks* Mandarin! Rick Perry (“George W. Bush without the Yale education.”) has a better chance.

  6. One problem Huntsman has is that (Gasp) he is contaminated because that colored usurper of the White House appointed Huntsman as Ambassador to China–with unanimous Senate approval.
    “Unclean! unclean!”
    Once upon a time, holding such a position was plus, but not to TPers.

    Plus, he’s not a rabid rightie and he’s bland.

    Romney is not gay-friendly so that is one thing in his favor. I remember seeing him on CSPAN strenuously arguing against marriage equality in MA.

    His religion could be a problem IF the Relgious Right like our own SBC and C0fC clearly grasp that Mormons are NOT in any sense doctinal Christians. They are Polytheists.
    The RR can accept weird rituals, magic underwear, I mean, that’s no more odd than singing without instruments but many gods? Thou shlat have no other gods before me” and “Hear O Israel, the LORD our God, the LORD is One.”

    I have nothing against a pragmatic politician, but he seems spineless and this probably is the biggest mark against him.

  7. “If I were a Republican I’d be all over Huntsman because he doesn’t have the Obamacare issue, and he’s not stiff as a board and such an obvious phony.”

    “Regarding Huntsman, I could not agree more. Huntsman looks like the most credible statesman to run for President since Bob Kerry or Howard Baker.”

    Indeed. I’m tempted to vote for Huntsman, myself, and I’m a yellow dog Democrat.

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