The excuses of the losers

Your editor realizes that former Governor Mitt Romney (R-MA) is not a popular choice for many Republicans, nor was Mr Romney your editor’s first choice for the Republican nomination.1 But I get very tired of reading complaints from people that Mr Romney is leading in the campaign for the GOP nomination because “the Republican Establishment does not want Newt Gingrich, Ron Paul, or Rick Santorum to win.” Mr Romney is leading now because ha has done something really, really radical, and gone out and won the most votes.

From the same source:

Moderates have always had a hard time winning. George W. Bush was the exception, but for a reason. In 2000, he sounded like a true conservative.

One wonders if the author has actually read Governor Romney’s platform.2 While there are a lot of people convinced that Mr Romney is a moderate-in-conservative’s-clothing, the fact is that Mr Romney sounds like a true conservative.

Nor is it true that moderate Republicans have always had a hard time winning: the elder George Bush won, coming from far behind against Governor Michael Dukakis (D-MA). And Richard Nixon tried to sound like a conservative, but a more establishment-type Republican you will never find. Even Ronald Reagan, who certainly sounded like a true conservative, didn’t really govern like one. He was hampered by a House of Representatives controlled by the Democrats, but, other than on defense spending, he hardly fought for conservative policies.

The problem arises because too many people haven’t looked at the facts. When you hear conservatives say that moderate Republicans don’t win, they are looking at Senator Bob Dole (R-KS) in 1996, and Senator John McCain (R-AZ) in 2008. Little consideration seems to have been given to the fact that Mr Dole was running against a reasonably popular President, with a rapidly improving economy, who had done a good job in co-opting Republican ideas on welfare reform and cutting the deficit. It seems to have been ignored that Senator McCain had actually moved within a couple of percentage points of Senator Barack Obama (D-IL) in September of 2008, only to have the bottom drop out of the economy while a Republican president was in the White House. And moderate Republicans certainly have won against liberal Democrats: the elder George Bush in 1988, the younger George Bush in 2000 and 2004, and, if we are truly honest about it, Ronald Reagan in 1884. All of those Republican winners characterized themselves as more conservative — or “compassionately conservative” — than they turned out to be in their actual governance.

Even in 1980, Ronald Reagan, seen as a fiery conservative, had been a relatively moderate Republican governor,3 and the Democrat he defeated, President Jimmy Carter, was seen as a dismal failure, presiding over a rotten, and worsening, economy and a weak and ineffective foreign policy, topped off by the hostage crisis in Iran.

The real winners? The men who won were the non-threatening candidates. The elder George Bush talked conservative, but still had a reputation as a moderate, and his campaign was all about leadership, experience and a strong economy. The younger George Bush was campaigning on his economic plans, primarily cutting taxes, and being a “compassionate conservative.” With what was seen as a good economy and a budget surplus, he ran a non-threatening campaign, and even with that, the election was so close that the electoral college and popular vote winners were different.4

Complaints like this leave me cold:

Santorum cries foul over Romney’s Ohio spending

Rick Santorum (CBS News) Steubenville, OH — Rick Santorum spent much of his time in Ohio crying foul over being outspent by his rival Mitt Romney.

He told a crowd near Dayton Monday, “If I had the opportunity to have a 6 to 1 spending advantage given where we are in this race right now, this race wouldn’t been close.”

Later that day, in Cuyahoga Falls, the margin had widened. “When you have 12 million dollars and you can outspend someone 12 or 13 to one, you can stop and ignore answering the questions,” said Santorum.

According to Santorum campaign spokesman Hogan Gidley, the supposed 12-to-1 spending advantage for Romney includes the total amount spent by the campaigns and the total for the super pacs supporting each of them.

More at the link. Your editor’s reaction? Well, wahhh! If Rick Santorum thinks it’s somehow unfair that Mitt Romney outspent him in Ohio, and, horrors! ran negative ads against him, just what does he expect President Obama to do during the general election campaign? More to the point: if Mr Santorum couldn’t defeat Mr Romney and his big money, negative ads campaign, why should anyone think Mr Santorum could defeat Mr Obama and his big money, negative ads campaign?

A presidential campaign is no place for the faint-hearted. It’s tough and it’s mean and it’s dirty and it’s unfair, and if a candidate thinks it shouldn’t be that way, maybe he needs to consider not making a presidential run. If Mr Santorum5 thinks that Mr Romney is seeking unfair advantages and not really playing by the rules, just what does he think Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and Hugo Chavez and Vladimir Putin will do? Does he somehow think he can scold Hu Jintao or Kim Jung-un about playing by the rules and suddenly see then straightening up and becoming nice guys?

Of course, even when there are some rules, Rick Santorum and Newt Gingrich6 haven’t done a terribly good job of winning under them. Governor Romney won the Virginia primary very easily, because Messrs Santorum and Gingrich weren’t on the ballot. The Virginia ballot access rules were simple and straightforward, but only Ron Paul and Mr Romney actually qualified for the ballot. The rules aren’t exactly the easiest, but they are easy enough that Fred Thompson and Dennis Kucinich managed to qualify for the primary ballots in 2008. If Messrs Gingrich and Santorum couldn’t even organize a strong enough campaign staff to get on the Virginia ballot, why should we think that they could organize a strong White House staff?

In the movie Top Gun, Tom Skerritt, playing the Top Gun commanding officer, said, “Gentlemen, this school is about combat: there are no points for second place.” In elections, there are no points for second place.


  1. I supported Governor Rick Perry (R-TX) initially, but Mr Perry proved to be a poor candidate, and dropped out of the race after failing to win enough votes to be competitive.
  2. Click on the campaign sign to go to Governor Romney’s campaign website, where his policy positions are available.
  3. In 1967, Governor Ronald Reagan (R-CA) signed the “Therapeutic Abortion Act” into law. The law was supposed to reduce the number of illegal abortions in California, but instead became a loophole under which a million legal abortions were performed in California, before the Supreme Court ruling of Roe v Wade.
  4. This is not an attempt to, or license for, opening a discussion on whether Al Gore “really” won the 2000 election; see Comments & Conduct Policy. This is simply a statement of indisputable fact: Al Gore won the popular vote, and George Bush won the electoral college.
  5. Click on the campaign sign to the left to go to Senator Santorum’s campaign website.
  6. Click on the campaign sign to the right to go to Newt Gingrich’s campaign website.

Comments are closed.