One of the things that I've worried about here is that Mitt Romney supporters high and low don't quite understand the antipathy (at best) that the candidate provokes in those who don't already support him. Well, supporter John Podhoretz has an excellent political analysis about Romney on this problem.
He points out how Romney will want to just go negative on Santorum like he went negative on Gingrich. Podhoretz concedes that this could work, to a point. But it would be disastrous in the long run:
But if Romney devotes most of his energies to keeping Gingrich down and leveling Santorum at the same time, he will simultaneously suck whatever life is left out of the Republican primary season in an effort simply to drag himself across the finish line.
While negativity is politically useful, it is also demoralizing unless it is accompanied — and to some extent overshadowed — by elevated and inspiring ideas about the American future.
He says there are precedents for candidacies that could be summed up as "I’m the best you’ve got, you might as well go with me” but that they're not good precedents: Michael Dukakis in 1988 and Bob Dole in 1996.
Romney has adopted almost every position conservatives want their candidate to espouse: He’s pro-life, he wants to repeal ObamaCare, he wants to cut taxes and cut the federal budget, and he wants an unapologetic foreign policy dedicated to the proposition that this too will be the American century.
But that’s not what he is fervent about. He saves his urgency for the talk about being a businessman who can apply his experience to setting right what was wrong in America. It’s almost a 2012 version of Barack Obama’s 2008 slogan, “We are the change we have been waiting for” — only in Romney’s hands, it’s “I am the change you have been waiting for.”
He simply has to give his party more — more than himself.
Podhoretz says the Romney camp is under the delusion that they can just wear voters down until they concede it's their patriotic duty to back Romney. But, as he notes, that's not how people vote.
This is not how ornery individualists vote. They have to be wooed and won, not made implicit demands of.
What do they want? They want what voters always want: To hear that their cause is just, their battles are noble, their leaders are tribunes and that righteousness as they see it will prevail.
Whether or not Romney likes or is comfortable with that role, Podhoretz says he must take it if he wants to win a primary, much less the general. At least someone is giving him good advice! Let's hope Romney and his advisers are listening.