Recently, there have been some rumblings by certain Tea Party leaders concerning their opposition to Mitt Romney on account of his healthcare plan in Massachusetts. Right or wrong, this is a major problem for Romney that he will need to address in the coming months if he is to claim the frontrunner status for the GOP nomination in 2012 that many pundits are saying is his to begin with.
However, in spite of Romney’s failure to adequately address the more questionable parts of his record, the Tea Party must understand that the opposition to Romney within their ranks is based on one thing: irrational fear.
Based on issues alone, it would be logical to conclude that Mitt Romney is in agreement with the vast majority of Tea Party principles. He balanced the budget for four consecutive years in a blue state without raising taxes. Isn’t that what the TEA in Tea Party stands for, Taxed Enough Already? The very premise of the Tea Party movement is in accordance with Romney’s record.
But what about RomneyCare? RomneyCare, signed into law by Romney in 2006, is a state-based healthcare plan with striking similarities to ObamaCare. However, unlike ObamaCare, RomneyCare did not raise taxes. But the bigger and more important difference is that RomneyCare was a state program and not a federal one. If states’ rights and federalism are truly important to the Tea Party, they would readily recognize this distinction. And on top of all this, Romney has consistently voiced his support for the repeal of ObamaCare.
Perhaps RomneyCare isn’t the only thing that irks some in the Tea Party movement. Maybe it’s his flip-flopping on abortion. Well, considering that he flipped (not flopped) his position to pro-life, wouldn’t that mean that the majority of the Tea Party should agree with him now? Changing positions on the issue of life isn’t uncommon in either party. Both Jesse Jackson and Al Gore became pro-choice after previously being pro-life. Republicans like George H.W. Bush, Henry Hyde, and some would even say Ronald Reagan each had somewhat pro-choice pasts before becoming pro-life. And besides, it would be difficult for the Tea Party to claim success with a pro-choice candidate like Scott Brown while pointing the finger at Romney.
So if it isn’t healthcare or abortion, what’s left? His religion? True, Romney’s Mormon faith may be outside of the mainstream and considered unusual at best by some evangelicals. But by and large, basic Mormon values and morality are essentially identical to those of evangelical voters. Aside from doctrinal differences, what legitimate political problem would they have with a Mormon president?
The only thing left to oppose Romney with is the irrational fear of what Romney might do if elected. Maybe since his healthcare plan in Massachusetts is like ObamaCare, Romney will change his mind and support it. Maybe since he already changed his position once on abortion, he will do it again (even though virtually no one has ever made such a change and doing so would be political suicide). Maybe [insert inane Mormon conspiracy theory here]. Maybe. Maybe. Maybe.
Let’s look at what Romney has actually done recently.
His PAC donated thousands of dollars to Tea Party-backed candidates including Sharron Angle, Christine O’Donnell, Michele Bachmann, Nikki Haley, Jim Demint, John Raese, Pat Toomey, Marco Rubio, Allen West and many others. His endorsements played a significant role in the GOP’s success in Election 2010.
He has also written op-eds expressing dissatisfaction with Obama’s policies. These articles should naturally curry favor among conservatives of all stripes who would like to unseat Obama in 2012.
Furthermore, Romney consistently polls ahead of or in a dead heat with Obama. He also garners more support among independents than other Republicans; and in some cases, he fares better than Obama does among that demographic.
If the Tea Party is interested in winning against Obama in 2012, perhaps they should give Romney another look. A united coalition of conservatives behind a candidate like him would be devastating to Obama.
Frankly, there’s little reason for the Tea Party to find dissatisfaction with Romney. I suppose a fondness for candidates outside of the so-called “establishment” would cause the Tea Party to lean against Romney. But until a candidate of his stature rises outside of the establishment with comparable credentials, Romney deserves a chance among those in the Tea Party movement. So to those who are afraid of the big bad Romney, remember that he is an ally and not an enemy.