Republican leaders said after Tuesday’s election they were “dumbfounded” and “mystified” that their guy, Mitt Romney, didn’t win the presidency. They shouldn’t have been so surprised. Powerful voices on the right were saying for months that Romney couldn’t or wouldn’t win.
Most famously, TV talker Ann Coulter proclaimed before a conservative crowd in February 2011: “If you don’t run (New Jersey Gov.) Chris Christie, Romney will be the nominee and we’ll lose.”
And that’s what happened. He was and they did.
Conservatism’s deep thinkers added their own warnings. George Will, whose syndicated column appears in this newspaper twice a week, dismissed Romney in October 2011 as a “recidivist reviser of his principles.” He kept piling on. Two months later, he wrote that Romney was “a conservative of convenience” who was “too risky to anoint” as the GOP nominee.
The charge that Romney wasn’t a true conservative now is being trumpeted by the Tea Party.
You remember the Tea Party. A few years ago, it was a loose coalition of conservative and libertarian-minded folks who railed against government spending and taxes. Today, Tea Partiers are just as likely to direct their ire at GOP moderates — like Romney.
Todd Cefaratti, editor of the Tea Party News Network, said in a news release this week that Tuesday’s debacle “goes to the heart of what we have been saying all along. Bob Dole didn’t win. John McCain didn’t win. And now Mitt Romney hasn’t won. The lesson the GOP and Americans need to learn is that weak-kneed Republicans do not get elected. Conservatives do.”
The Tea Party News Network’s news director, Scottie Hughes, added that the Republican Party needs “stricter ideological purity.”
Our own view is that the GOP hasn’t kept up with America’s shifting landscape of ethnicities, gender roles and sexual preferences, a failure that hobbled the Romney campaign.
So take your pick: the tea party’s explanation, George Will’s misgivings, a demographic dilemma or whatever. Either way, Romney’s loss may be regrettable but it’s far from dumbfounding.