Capitol Idea: The Mitt Romney Threat

In the endless fluidity of the 2012 stable of potential presidential hopefuls (“Will Sarah Palin run? Has Newt Gingrich cratered?”), there has been one solid: Mitt Romney.

After losing the 2008 GOP nomination to John McCain, the former Massachusetts governor never really stopped running. Romney picked up right where he left off once Barack Obama moved into the White House.

He is set to officially announce his candidacy for 2012 on Thursday, and he could well become Obama’s worst nightmare — if only he wins his party nomination.

And there, Romney finds himself in an odd situation. He apparently is both the front-runner and, simultaneously, something of a second choice for many Republicans.

Romney clearly is the establishment candidate, evidenced by the fact that he collected more than $10 million in just one day of fundraising in Las Vegas.

Yet the fact that that Romney is leading the pack, according to one recent poll, with support from just 14 percent of his party indicates just how tenuous his leadership is right now.

The fact that in that same poll, a quarter of the GOP primary electorate isn’t even sure who they would vote for as their nominee tells me that Republicans aren’t exactly in love with Romney.

If Romney can sufficiently and effectively distance himself from the fact that his state healthcare reform in Massachusetts became the model for President Obama’s own national reform law, then he has a real shot to come away with the nomination.

The other reason Christian conservatives are said to dislike Romney is due to his Mormon faith. Romney can’t, nor should he, run away from his Mormonism. Unlike healthcare reform, or other substantive policy position, Romney’s religion is not a legitimate reason to oppose him. If Romney continues to push back against this bias as necessary, he well could neutralize it, at least enough to secure the nomination.

Remember, the conservative base wasn’t in love with McCain either, in 2008, when he locked up his nomination. The right flocked to his side only after he named Palin as his running mate.

Romney could follow a similar path, and name tea party darling, Rep. Michele Bachmann of Minnesota, as his VP pick.

If he succeeds in this, Romney could well become Barack Obama’s undoing.

Right now, Obama appears cruising to re-election next year, unless Romney becomes the nominee.

Head to head, the president crushes his potential GOP opponents, often by double digits.

But against Mitt Romney, Obama barely squeaks by, 51 percent to 49 percent.

That doesn’t leave the president much margin for error.

And unlike McCain, who attacked Obama in 2008 on assorted character issues, Romney reportedly plans to hammer the president relentlessly on the continuing poor economy.

Further, remember that Romney once got elected as a Republican governor of a liberal state like Massachusetts. Clearly, he has the ability to communicate successfully with independents and cross-over voters.

So, yes, Barack Obama and his team have much to fear if he has to face Mitt Romney come Nov. 6, 2012.

Scott Nance has covered Congress and the federal government for more than a decade. Capitol Idea is his regular column from Washington. This article was first published as The Mitt Romney Threat on Blogcritics.

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