Thursday, September 1, 2011

Republican Insiders Prefer Mitt

Mitt Romney has already proven that he isn’t much of a presidential candidate. I guess he looks “presidential,” if what you’re looking for in a president is an upright bearing, good hair, success in the business world and state politics and a flair for business casual. Yet he has never shown the capacity to secure a substantial core of support within the Republican primary electorate.

Remember that this is a guy who, despite a vast personal fortune and a Rolodex full of major Republican bundlers, couldn’t manage to keep up with Mike Huckabee in the last presidential election cycle. Your diagnosis of Romney’s deficiencies as a candidate is as good as mine. Maybe it’s the wooden manner he shares with Al Gore, that his Mormonism turns off evangelicals, all those ideological epiphanies he has had with respect to core conservative values,  RomneyCare etc.  The list isn't short.

So it says something about the extraordinary shallowness of the Republican presidential field that Romney still has the overwhelming support of party insiders in what’s looking like a two-man race with Rick Perry. Here’s Benjy Sarlin over at TPM:
“Republican ‘insiders’ are wary of Rick Perry's ability to win, according to a survey by National Journal, picking Mitt Romney by a wide margin as the more electable candidate. The poll, which regularly checks in with a pool of Republican and Democratic strategists, finds both parties in agreement that Romney is the superior candidate. Republicans think the GOP would be better off nominating him by a 69% to 31% margin. That number is even higher among Democratic insiders, 83% of whom see Romney as the better bet versus 17% for Perry.”
This may just be a case of Romney’s being a known quantity whose advantage with lukewarm insiders will fade over time if Perry keeps running neck and neck with Obama in the polls, performs decently in the debates and avoids a spectacular gaffe. If you asked Democratic insiders at this time in 2007, a huge majority would have told you that Hillary Clinton would be a lot more formidable candidate than Barack Obama.   They hadn't reckoned with Obama's capacity to inspire rank-and-file support or how tired a lot of Democratic insiders were of the Clintons.

Yet, being the country’s longest serving governor from one its largest states, Rick Perry’s not exactly coming out of nowhere. He has always been on the list of contenders for the Republican presidential nomination.  So party insiders presumably know enough about him by now to make educated guesses about his electability and whether his candidacy will be good for the party in other respects. And they still seem to be guessing that he's a lot less electable than a candidate with Romney’s manifest weaknesses.

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