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Primaries and caucuses will continue as the Republican presidential race plays out until the summer convention, but for all practical purposes, it’s over. Mitt Romney will be the party’s 2012 nominee for president.
There seems to be no realistic scenario for anyone – even a still-mentioned “late entry” into the race – to prevent what appears inevitable.
Rarely does a Republican presidential candidate win both the Iowa Caucuses and the New Hampshire primary. What’s happening in the GOP, for the most part, is that people who still value common sense and practicality over the burning fire of right-wing ideology, have figured it out.
Given his background as a moderate (a hated word among the zealots), and his previous national business and campaign experience – not to mention a term as governor – Romney is the obvious choice.
It’s also true that presidential elections are heavily influenced by the votes of independents, and they don’t like right-wing or left-wing zealots. Go ahead. Nominate a Santorum or a Perry, if you wish, but you’ll lose in the general election.
That’s exactly what happened in 1964, if you’re old enough to remember Barry Goldwater. Common sense Republicans that remain today are determined that it not happen again, and they know that Mitt Romney – as polls have repeatedly shown all along – is the most electable, the most sane candidate in a wacky field.
Romney’s triumph will mark an end to the ridiculous attempts to find someone other than him among one of the worst Republican presidential fields in history.
The latest would-be savior, Newt Gingrich, is permanently sealing his reputation as “forever 14 years old,” as one columnist put it. Gingrich is a spoiled child who thinks the world revolves around him.
After his campaign fell apart early last year, with most of his staffers leaving, he was resurrected as someone so devoted to the integrity of the party that he wouldn’t attack his opponents.
That lasted as long as it took for Romney to win in Iowa. Now he’s made it his personal mission to destroy Mitt Romney. But all he’s doing is making a fool of himself.
Rick Santorum emerged in Iowa as the favorite of the religious right (even though Romney still won a slight plurality of “evangelicals” there). But he didn’t play very well in New Hampshire.
Santorum hopes he can be the religious rightist of choice in South Carolina this weekend, but he’s competing with Rick Perry, who should have quit after Iowa. They will split that vote; Jon Huntsman and Ron Paul will get their share, and it all means that Mitt Romney wins again.
So, what are the final conclusions? Mitt Romney may well be the last moderate ever to get a presidential nomination in a party increasingly infected with the worst of the conservative virus.
Today’s Republican Party is becoming a shadow of its former self. It is mostly a small and narrow tent of religious fanatics who confuse conservatism with Christianity, and hard-core Ayn Rand types who believe that the poor deserve their poverty and shouldn’t be helped.
Abraham Lincoln certainly wouldn’t recognize his party, but that’s been true for a long time. More to the point recently, Dwight D. Eisenhower, Charles Percy, Jacob Javits, and even Richard Nixon, wouldn’t recognize this party of crazed ideologues.
But Mitt Romney, the son of another famous moderate Republican who sought the presidency, George Romney, has a chance to save it from oblivion.
We Democrats will fight to the last minute to re-elect our incumbent, Barack Obama. But if our president and our party must lose, let it be to someone who can govern the country without the madness of ultra-conservatism.
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Rick Howell, a Bedford native, can be reached by e-mail at NewCenHowell@aol.com.