Mitt Romney appears to be unstoppable at the moment. As the first Republican since 1976 to win both the Iowa and New Hampshire caucus in the nomination race, it would seem that Romney is a shoe-in for the Republican nomination. However, despite these early successes, he still seems to be having trouble capturing the hearts of the conservative base of the Republican party, a problem that may hit him hard in the next primary, South Carolina.
So what is it about Mitt Romney that, for all of the improvements made to his debate performances made since 2008 and his impassioned speechmaking, he remains uninspiring to many Republicans?
Firstly, there is suspicion from the evangelical Christian faction of the Republican Party, which has become an increasingly influential force within the party, over his Mormon faith. This, combined with the fact that, with a net worth of $250 million, he is one of the wealthiest people to have run for president in the last century, leads to natural mistrust from a party who now largely appeal to the white, working-class, Protestants of America.
In addition, the skepticism of the Republican base over Romney's values has been compounded by the fact that he seems to flip-flop as is convenient on issues that many Republicans hold dear. For example, on the issue of gun control, Romney claims to hold a view that is firmly aligned to the traditional Republican view on the right to bear arms. Speaking at the National Shooting Sports Foundation (NSSF) in the run up to the 2008 election, Romney claimed to "support the Second Amendment as one of the most basic and fundamental rights of every American". However, Romney did not actually become a lifelong member of the National Rifle Association (NRA) until August of 2006, at the age of 59. Additionally, Romney had previously advocated gun control measures. For instance, in his campaign for the Senate in 1994 he supported initiatives such as a five-day waiting period on the sale of firearms. This has, therefore, led to understandable doubt over what he truly believes on the matter and whether he can be trusted not to change his position once more if elected to the office of President.
Compared to the closest runner up in New Hampshire, Ron Paul, who followed Romney's 39% share of the vote with 23%, Romney's own conservative politics seem rather mild. To directly compare their records on the issue of gun control, Paul takes a far more libertarian stance, advocating in one ABC interview for the armament of pilots in order to avoid terrorist attacks and the hijacking of planes. Additionally he has been given an A+ rating by the gun rights group Gun Owners of America, giving an indication of his popularity within the far right.
This incompatibility with hard line conservative views goes beyond gun rights as Romney also has a fairly liberal record on abortion and LGBT rights, issues that may key in securing the support of the Tea Party faction. While Rick Perry remains the Tea Party favourite, Ron Paul, often referred to as the "intellectual godfather", of the movement is still popular within the Tea Party.
Romney claimed in his 1994 campaign for US senate against Ted Kennedy that he supported a woman's right to choose and would uphold Roe vs. Wade, despite his personal beliefs. Paul on the other hand, has campaigned tirelessly against abortion. In the 1994 race Romney also professed support for LGBT rights, specifically citing Clinton's "Don't Ask Don't Tell Policy" as a positive step towards enabling gays and lesbians to be able to serve in the military. Paul, on the other hand does not waver from his strongly anti-homosexual stance, being quoted in an article entitled "The Pink House" as saying: "I miss the closet. Homosexuals, not to speak of the rest of society, were far better off when social pressure forced them to hide their activities." While controversial statements such as that may make Ron Paul a bit of a liability, his candour and conviction endears him to the Tea Party who sell themselves as being the "straight-talking" alternative, staying true to "family values".
So, while Romney seems to be on a roll at the moment, it is perhaps a little early for him to be planning how to beat Obama in November. Before he tries to win over America, he must first convince the 60% of his own party that didn't vote for him in New Hampshire that he's the man for the job.
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