John Hinderaker of Powerlineblog, and many others, support Mitt Romney for the Republican nomination because he is, in their lights, the “inevitable” nominee. That’s never made sense to me. It didn’t used to make sense to Ann Coulter who just a year ago was saying that Republicans are crazy to nominate Romney because he will surely lose to Obama. She’s done a 180-degree turn on that and, at the expense of her credibility on everything, now lashes out at anyone who dares to question the “inevitability” of Romney. Thomas Sowell says the “inevitability” argument is specious.
Many people may be voting for Mitt Romney because of the view in some quarters that he is the inevitable Republican candidate for President of the United States and the candidate with the best chance of beating Barack Obama, rather than because they actually prefer Romney to the other candidates. Inevitability has a very unreliable track record.
Sowell points out that Romney’s enormous advantage in money over his Republican rivals has enabled him to crush them in the primaries with negative campaign ads. This coupled with the fact that his campaign has been ongoing for years and has boots on the ground the others lack has enabled him to overwhelm them. That is unique to the primaries and won’t work in the general election. In fact, Sowell says, the conditions that made him the front runner in the primaries are going to be the direct opposite in the general election. Then it will be Obama with the most money and the largest number of boots on the ground. That taken together with something else Sowell doesn’t mention, is the huge amount of negative research the Obama machine has been amassing against Romney for years. The minute Romney is confirmed as the Republican nominee a storm so powerful will hit the ground Romney won’t know what hit him. Sowell also notes that Romney will not fight Obama nearly as hard as he is fighting his Republican rivals. Even if he tried, it is doubtful he could pull it off the way he has against Santorum and Gingrich.
So what would Romney need to do to beat Obama? There’s the rub. Sowell answers that question,
How does anyone ever defeat a sitting president then? They do it because they have a message that rings and resonates. The last Republican to defeat a sitting president was Ronald Reagan. He was the only Republican to do so in the 20th century.
He didn’t do it with polls. At one point during the election campaign, President Jimmy Carter led Ronald Reagan with 58 percent to 40 percent in the polls. So much for the polls that so many are relying on so heavily today.
The question is not which Republican looks better against Barack Obama in the polls today, before the general election campaign begins. The question is which Republican can take the fight to Barack Obama, as Reagan took the fight to Carter, and win the poll that ultimately matters, the vote on election day.
What Romney would need to beat an incumbent president is something in which he is wholly lacking. He would need a message that rings and resonates. Do he have a message, can he deliver a message that resonates with voters? Sowell is doubtful:
The biggest fighting issue for Republicans is ObamaCare. Can the author of RomneyCare as governor of Massachusetts make that an effective issue by splitting hairs over state versus federal mandates? Can a man who has been defensive about his own wealth fight off the standard class warfare of Barack Obama, who can push all the demagogic buttons against Mitt Romney as one of the one-percenters?
Rick Santorum, and especially Newt Gingrich, are fighters — and this election is going to be a fight to the finish, with the fate of this country in the balance. Mitt Romney has depended on massive character assassination advertising campaigns to undermine his rivals. That will not work against Barack Obama.
Romney the inevitable winner of the Republican nomination could the inevitable loser of the general election unless he can transform himself into an entirely different candidate. There are few such transformations to be found in history, and Romney’s rigidity on Romneycare is not a good sign.
Romney’s lack of any discernible core beliefs about government or even life in general will make it extremely difficult for him to deliver a consistent message that will ring and resonate. Romney’s vision is…well, you get it. Nobody can describe Romney’s vision on anything because he hasn’t told us, and we suspect he hasn’t told us what his vision is because he simply doesn’t have one.
Sowell delivers the final blow:
It is truer in this election than in most that “it takes a candidate to beat a candidate.” And that candidate has to offer both himself and his vision. Massive ad campaigns against rivals is not a vision.
Some, like President Bush 41, disdained “the vision thing” — and he lost the presidency that he had inherited from Ronald Reagan, lost it to a virtual unknown from Arkansas.
The vision matters, more than the polls and even more than incumbency in the White House.
Sowell knows of what he speaks. After all, he the author of what might be the two best books on political science ever written: A Conflict of Visions and The Vision of the Anointed.
Read the whole thing.