At this point, it doesn’t much matter if you favor Newt Gingrich, as I do, or whether you like Rick Santorum, but if you’ve come to see Mitt Romney as being nearly as bad in some respects as the President we all hope to replace, you might wish to consider getting excited about a “brokered” or “open” convention. The mathematical realities are hard to ignore. Of all the Republican candidates, Mitt Romney has a substantial delegate lead, but he still needs to get to 1144, and for the rest of us, the question isn’t merely how to get our own preferred candidate into the top slot, but how to prevent Romney from managing to steal away with it. The key to doing so will be to get out the vote in favor of Gingrich or Santorum, but how do we do that? Many conservatives have given up, and in the face of the endless waves of well-funded Romney attack campaigns against the other two, many voters are turned off. This is Romney’s plan: Disparage, divide, depress and conquer. When you consider what he faces, it’s easy to understand why he must follow this approach: If conservative turn-out swelled at the polls, he’d be done and gone quickly.
Members of the GOP establishment like to say that a brokered convention is too disorderly, and that it puts the party into chaos, but what they really fear is that on the floor of the convention, conservatives might well find their voice and unite behind a non-establishment candidate. As some have pointed out, in 1920, Warren G. Harding came from single-digit obscurity to capture the nomination in a brokered convention. In 1860, on the third vote, we got Abraham Lincoln in a brokered convention. In 1976, we came within a whisker of a true brokered convention and nearly got Ronald Reagan four years earlier. Imagine all the pain the country would have avoided, but then again, had we not gotten Carter, we’d have absolutely nobody to whom we could compare Barack Obama’s miserable record as president. The fact is that brokered conventions often serve to set things right in the Republican party, and I don’t think there’s any reason to fear it. Instead, I believe conservatives should view a brokered convention as the last chance for a “do-over” when it’s clear the party establishment is pushing a flawed, uninspiring candidate like Mitt Romney.
For the rest of us to have a shot, whether you like Newt or Rick, the answer must be that we should rise in both camps to do battle against the establishment. I realize that we’ve been trained to compete with one another as rivals, and I understand why the Gingrich camp wants the Santorum camp to give over, and why the inverse is also true. It makes sense. We’re Americans. We naturally seek the advantage in order to win. We’re good at competition, but I think this year that our competitive tendencies are being used against us. Every time something comes over the transom that is devastating to Mitt Romney, suddenly we’re faced with a story of lesser import aimed at one of the others, and what always gets lost in the shuffle is Romney. You don’t need special insight to observe it in action. After the disaster of “Etch-a-Sketch,” the Romney camp had to find some way to blunt it, so they cooked up narratives about Santorum’s remarks twice in four days, and packaged them so as to give an impression that was a misrepresentation of what Santorum said, even if we admit he said it clumsily, or with a lack of precision.
It’s not like the Gingrich camp hasn’t experienced this several times before. If any should be able to see when the mud-slinging is about to commence in earnest, it should be the Gingrich supporters because they’ve had more dirt shoveled in their direction than any Republican candidate for any office since Sarah Palin was the VP pick in 2008. The phony narrative about Newt’s ex-wife, and the whole week of ginned-up nonsense leading up to Florida should remind Gingrich supporters how conveniently the dirt is heaped in our direction in order to help Romney escape his own latest troubles. This has happened so often and with such predictable regularity that when I see Romney has managed to step in “it,” I begin immediately to watch instead for where the attack against one of the others will originate.
Don’t be fooled by this, and don’t let yourselves become discouraged. As Speaker Gingrich has pointed out, if we get through the last primaries in June without a clear nominee, this really does become something of an etch-a-sketch in terms of the race. We’ll have two months of an intense pre-convention run-up during which there will finally be a battle for the heart and soul of the Republican Party. My view is that any of these candidates would be more effective against Barack Obama than Mitt Romney, and while reasonable people may disagree on which particular candidate, let’s be honest: Mitt Romney doesn’t represent we conservatives in any measure, and his Romney-care program(among lesser indignities) makes him every bit as objectionable as Barack Obama.
I think it’s time both the camps of Gingrich and Santorum consider that for either to prevail, Mitt Romney must be stopped. We’ll never stop fighting with one another completely, because it would be contrary to the nature of the competitive spirit that is inherent in our conservative beliefs, but that doesn’t mean we can’t be smarter about it. At this point in the campaign, it’s all over if we let Romney obtain 1144 delegates, or anything close to that number. We can’t stop him from outspending Newt and Rick 10:1, 20:1, or even 50:1 as has been the case thus far in Wisconsin, but we can debunk it all, whomever it’s aimed at.
My thought is that what we need to change our focus: Mitt’s the problem. Mitt’s the obstruction. Mitt’s the guy throwing millions upon millions at his more conservative rivals, but most astonishingly, he does so while claiming he is the real conservative. It’s a laughable claim, but while we laugh, he’s managing to get away with it. You might join me in preferring Gingrich, or you might be like my sibling who prefers Santorum, but we’re brothers, after all, and one thing we can agree upon is that Mitt Romney is not the guy we want to see go up against Obama this Fall. My brother and I have made a bit of a truce on the matter. We’ve agreed, one to the other, that we’ll not spend our time hammering back and forth, but we will focus instead on the guy who will sneak away with it all if we spend too much time fighting between us.
My brother and I talked about this at length, and what we decided is that for the good of the party, but more importantly, for the good of the country, we need a brokered convention as our only means by which to reset all of it. Growing up as we did, we often found ourselves in situations in which one of us needed to have the other’s back. It wasn’t that we didn’t squabble and fight between us, because in truth, few fight like brothers against one another. The thing we always tried to remember is that that while our fights were fine and dandy when the struggles were among and between us, you didn’t let somebody else step in and divide us to his own advantage, ultimately defeating us both. Instead, we’d team up against the interloper and deal with our own differences later.
I think that at this point, whatever our differences, they pale in comparison to our similarities. I’m not suggesting to you that we circle ’round and sing Kumbaya, and that this will cure all differences between us, but I think we ought to deal with the interloper first. Mitt’s not a conservative, and the truth is that a fair number of the people now voting for him will not be there for him in November, and I don’t know about you, but I’m tired of DNC mischief picking our candidates. I’ve heard a few rumors about DNC operations trying to help Santorum, but it’s hard to find evidence, since the counties in which Santorum lost in Michigan and Ohio were really fairly strong Democrat areas. In Florida, Newt lost in the South end of the state, but in the panhandle, Newt won. In fact, if you look at these election maps, what you will notice very quickly is that they appear much as if the conservative had been running against Obama: The more urban counties went heavily for Romney. This trend has been repeated in battle-ground states, one after the next. You’ll remember that analysts loved to say it was about education, smearing either Newt or Rick on the basis that only dumb, hick, rednecks were supporting them. My question has been: Who’s supporting Romney in all of those heavily Democrat counties and districts? Conservatives? Hardly.
Make of it what you will, but I’m telling you what I see, and it looks something like this: If conservatives permit Mitt Romney to be the nominee, I can see four more years of Obama, which may be an eternity for all intents and purposes. Even if Romney were to some how pull off the win, I don’t see where that would advance our cause much. He’s already got Pam Bondi working on a task force of some sort for the “replacement” of Obamacare, which is to say that we’ll get some form of Romney-care that will still run our country into the ground, and destroy the private insurance market. In other words, I don’t see much hope for the country even if Romney wins. He won’t fix it, and chances are that while he won’t break it quite as much, or quite as quickly, the destruction will continue. If we’re going to prevent that, we must do so now by dragging our conservative friends to the polls to vote for Newt or Rick. Either way, it’s a vote against Mitt, and we need all those we can get. After we stop him, we can refocus on beating one another in a more honest competition. After all, it’s the brotherly thing to do.