Tim Aker, Grassroots Co-ordinator for the British TaxPayers' Alliance, believes Romney is the man with the momentum.
If you throw enough money at something, will the problem go away? It will if you’re Willard Mitt Romney, the former Governor of Massachusetts and someone who is, clearly, the front runner for the Republican Presidential nomination. The momentum is with Mitt Romney – and it could carry him through the primaries to the White House.
Look how far he’s come. Romney’s campaign flagged at the outset. His polling was risible – matched by his poor national standing. Videos flooded YouTube with Romney’s sound-bites supporting abortion and extending gay rights. Soon the self-appointed champion of social conservatism faced the ire of leading social conservatives horrified that he tried to out-liberal Ted Kennedy in his 1994 Senate race. Pundits immediately coined the phrase ‘Mitt-flop’ and conservative pressure groups set out to demonize him as a liberal, a RINO (Republican in name only).
Yet after three debates, millions of dollars spent and a flood of polls, Romney is climbing. Not only that, he has soared in the early primary states. Recent polling in Iowa, New Hampshire, Utah and Michigan has Romney leading by 10% on average. While his national polling may only hover above 10%, leading in the early primary states sets him up for surviving well into Super Tuesday. Remember, most commentators say there are three tickets out of Iowa and only two out of New Hampshire. Romney leads impressively in both.
So how has this turn around in fortunes come about?
The first is organisation and money. Both reinforce the other. Outstripping his rivals, his first quarter takings of over $20million have been put – mostly – to developing a meticulous grassroots organisation that is second to none, dedicated to counter the ‘Mitt-flop’ accusations spiralling out, almost daily, from YouTube.
His website is by far the best. He walks onto the screen and talks to you, focusing on funding and organisational issues supporters can help with!
He won the Conservative Political Action Conferencse's straw poll by getting his supporters to the event, a feat you can’t do without money, organisation and followers.
In the 24 hours after the first televised Republican debate, his netroots campaign attempted to sign up 24,000 new supporters in 24 hours through the ‘Sign up America’ drive. They succeeded!
His strategy to combat accusations of East Coast liberalism and promote his economic and socially conservative credentials at the grassroots level has paid off. With added enthusiasm from a youth wing (his main Facebook group – of which there are many dedicated to the Romney campaign – has over 4,600 members) Team Mitt has pounded the streets to downplay the attacks and promote his agenda. Having your neighbours, friends and colleagues explaining to you why Mitt Romney should be president works so much better than a 30 second TV advert few take seriously. Romney’s organisation is on the ground, it’s communicating directly with people and it is working.
Looking like a President also helps, especially when you’re promoting a conservatism hit hard by last November’s mid-term elections. Romney’s campaign broadcasts, so far, have focused on his outsider status in order to distance him from the corruption and incompetence associated with Congressional Republicans. As a businessman he amassed a personal fortune well over $300million. As a competent strategist, he ran the Salt Lake City Winter Olympics – made all the more difficult coming just months after the September 11th attacks on the US. If there’s one thing Republicans adore more than sound principles, it’s competence.
Finally, as a politician, conservatives are beginning to rally to him.
Romney has played on his ideological change, using it as a platform to explain his ‘conversion’ to social conservatism. John Kerry’s presidential bid faltered amidst accusations over his flip-flopping on the war. Romney learned from that. He’s not backtracking like Kerry did, instead using it to his advantage.
On abortion and life issues he states how the radicalism of the humanist-scientific community in showing little regard for human life ‘converted’ him to the pro-life cause. He knew then that he couldn’t support an agenda that treated human life with such contempt and has been a passionate promoter of pro-life issues, all featuring prominently in his stump speeches. On issues of nationhood, he’s stood against the McCain-Kennedy illegal immigrant amnesty bill and promoted English as the national language. In every debate, Romney is not afraid to say he was wrong and is now coming down on the side of conservatism.
Social conservatives are taking to this conversion. He is a man of faith. Mormonism isn’t a factor to people who put the implementation of conservative policy ahead of a man’s private beliefs. One of the great oddities espoused from know-it-all pundits is that they expect evangelicals not to embrace a convert. Of course they’ll embrace a convert to their principles. Ronald Reagan was adored by the Moral Majority despite signing into law one of the most liberal abortion laws in Californian history when he was Governor. Cynical or not, change is welcome and is winning over the evangelical, socially conservative movement.
Romney’s organisation, fundraising and ideological entrenchment are working. With over 6 months to go until the first primaries, he still has his work cut out. But when he’s scared away John McCain and Rudy Giuliani from the Ames Straw Poll in Iowa this August, you know you have a contender for the Presidency that has to be taken seriously.