Archives: Are Mitt Romney and Conservatives Irreconcilable?

Originally published in February 2012
Simon Nguyen

Every time Mitt Romney was on the brink of seizing control of the GOP nomination race, hardcore conservatives had come out with conviction to stop him in his track. They did it in Iowa to deny the Republican front-runner victory, in South Carolina to aid Newt Gingrich’s thumping of Romney, and in Rick Santorum’s trifecta of victories last Tuesday. CNN polls and various news reports indicated conservative voters strongly backed Romney’s rivals in these states.

For someone who has spent the last four years courting conservatives, Romney is far from winning their hearts and minds. The Bain Capital co-founder has yet to convince conservatives and tea partiers he is their candidate. What Romney has been seriously lacking is a sense of authenticity.

Former president George W. Bush was the type of person one would like to sit down and have a beer with. John McCain was a decorated war hero. Santorum has an everyman feel conservatives can relate to. Romney simply does not possess these qualities.

Instead, he is seen as either a Wall Street elite who is out of touch with ordinary Americans or a politician who will say and do anything to get elected. His recent gaffes regarding immigration and the poor further enhance this narrative. Additionally, Romney’s Mormon faith will always be an issue with some religious conservatives.

Then there is his liberal record as the governor of Massachusetts. The Michigan native has actually been spared of more forceful attacks from his rivals on controversial past positions like RomneyCare and cap-and-trade. Still, many conservatives have not forgiven Romney and are skeptical of his ever changing positions.

These doubts are perhaps the reason why conservatives have kept their distance from the former Massachusetts governor. According to data compiled by the United States Elections Project, turnout numbers for two of the three states won by Romney were woefully lower compared to four years ago. New Hampshire was the only state in Romney’s column that saw an increase, though independents and moderates made up a large chunk of the votes.

In contrast, turnouts in very conservative Iowa and South Carolina, where Romney was beaten, enjoyed big increases from 2008. Conservatives are clearly not enthused about Romney, and that is shown in the uneven turnout.

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