by Andy Marlatt
Rallying around Mitt Romney in much the same way suicide jumpers rally around the ground, Republican heavyweights have continued to endorse the “inevitable” GOP presidential candidate by using such superlatives as “yeah,” “(let’s) face it,” and “whatever.”
“Face it, we got the best candidate we could out of the process,” South Carolina Rep. Mick Mulvaney actually said — out loud — at a Republican forum.
“You can call it whatever you want,” said Rick Santorum, after he was asked if his pledge to support his party in November was an endorsement of Romney.
I’d call it an indifferendorsement, a rousing show of support if you define rousing as the feeling you get when the doctor says you have a yeast infection — it sucks, but at least it’s not Chlamydia.
Former Romney opponents Rick Perry and Newt Gingrich, as well as Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, also lined up in the vicinity of the behind of the nominee-to-be, christening the good ship Romney with the equivalent of a half-finished bottle of Mike’s Hard Lemonade. “Yeah, I support Gov. Romney for president of the United States, and he is going to be the nominee,” McConnell managed to blurt out before, presumably, becoming ill.
Obviously, something is amiss here. Republicans don’t usually act like this. They’re usually united, organized, with talking points disseminated telepathically. But these folks act like they woke up on a rainy day to learn that the Yankees-Red Sox game they planned to attend was washed out and replaced by an evening of Nancy Pelosi vacation movies. “Alright, I guess I’ll go. But if she’s in a two-piece, I’m closing my eyes.”
On the surface, it’s easy to see why conservatives are indifferent to Romney. It’s the same reason it’s hard to get fired up about haggis. They say it’s food, but what is it really? In political terms, it’s David Souter Syndrome: the fear that what you thought you were getting will turn out to be the last thing you wanted. To refresh your memory, Souter was appointed to the Supreme Court by George H.W. Bush. He was supposed to be conservative. Oops.
For that reason, it seems the right doesn’t want Romney to be their candidate any more than you’d want him to be your mohel. He wavers too much. Back in 2004, Democrat John Kerry suffered by being for things before he was against them. But Mitt Romney was for things he wasn’t against until he was up against it for being for things he didn’t yet know he needed to be against. It’s hard to endorse that, not to mention comprehend that, but Rep. Louie Gohmert, R-TX, gave it a shot: “If you’re not sure about wanting to support Mitt Romney, whether you’re liberal, whether you’re very conservative, you ought to be excited because he’s been on your side at one time or another,” he told The Hill. He then added: “So I’m not completely misunderstood, I’m not as excited as I am desperate.”
Specifically, Gohmert and his colleagues are saying they are desperately worried that they have Oops II on their hands; that once nominated, and certainly if he gets into office, Romney will quickly Souterize. The thing is, not so deep down, the Democrats think this too, and they’re worried that independents in particular will agree.
And here’s where the GOP’s very public, out-of-character indifferendorsements finally make sense. They aren’t accidental. Republicans want independents and moderate Democrats to see their indifference. They want independents and moderate Democrats to think Romney is not a “severe conservative.” They want independents and moderate Democrats to think Romney is different enough from Obama to give them a choice, but not so different as to put the Tea Party bus up on blocks on the White House lawn.
The accepted wisdom in politics nowadays is that endorsements don’t really matter. But in 2012, Republicans have figured out that indifferendorsements just might.
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