Saturday, March 24, 2012

A Small Victory: Romney Joins Scores of Moderate Republicans Crowned by Moderate Illinois Voters

Last Tuesday, Mitt Romney won the Illinois Republican Presidential Primary over Rick Santorum by 12 percentage points. With the victory, Romney increased his delegate lead by 33 delegates. Admittedly, Romney's delegate lead is comfortable, and delegates determine the nomination. However comfortable Mitt Romney's delegate lead, he still is not half way to the 1,144 delegates which clinch the nomination. If you don't have the delegates to clinch by convention time, then the other factors for determining the nomination come into the forefront.

These factors include which States each candidate has one, and which candidate has the most relevant message at that moment in history, during convention week. At that moment, Mitt Romney's success with the Salt Lake City Olympics and his private sector experience may longer matter. Even more so, his greatest asset, the idea that he is the most electable over Obama, may be a lost asset by convention time. Inevitability and purchasing power, has been the engine of Romney's campaign. His recent speeches where he sounds like a life long conservative may bring a brief moment of peace to conservatives like me, but it hasn't won him delegates near as much as the air of inevitability, assumed electability, and cash. Take away these 3 things, and he would become an underdog against Gingrich or Santorum in the battle for the conservative mantle.

Which brings me to the completed Illinois Primary and the sudden calls, for Rick Santorum and Newt Gingrich to hang up their spurs and hold hands with Mitt Romney all the way to the White House. Allow me to declare: winning Illinois does not make a Moderate Republican electable and does not bring with it a consensus that the big tent supports a Moderate Republican for the nomination. Illinois is a Moderate Republican State. Even when winning landslide congressional victories in 2010, those representatives who won made little effort to move Illinois in a conservative direction.

Take for instance the Tea Party Freshman of Illinois. There are but 2 out of 5 Freshman in Illinois who have a high conservative rating; Joe Walsh and Randy Hultgren. Ironically, Walsh represents a District where a Conservative Republican would be most vulnerable, but he put conservative principles over his future electoral success. Walsh received an American Conservative Union (ACU) Legislative Rating of 92% and a Heritage Action Score of 96% during his 1st session in Congress in 2011.

By comparison, Freshman Bobby Shilling, while representing a much more rural and conservative District, received an ACU Score of 76% and a Heritage Action Score of 57%. The other 2 Illinois Freshmen, Adam Kinzinger and Bob Dold were no better, Dold has been abysmal, with an ACU score of 44% and Heritage Action score of 49%.
His 10th District predecesor, now Senator Mark Kirk, has a 58% rating, and has long been thought by Illinois Republicans to be too much on the liberal side. Illinois Republican Primary voters of the 10th District in 2010 would have had no expectation that Dold would have amassed such a poor conservative rating during his
1st term. The same can be said for voters in the 11th District, where Adam Kinzinger rode in on the Tea Party wave and immediately became a lock to vote for John Boehner's pitiful deals with Obama resulting in minimal spending cuts. Kinzinger voted against ammendments that would have cut billions in early 2011. For those voters in the 11th who realized what Kinzinger did, they quickly became aware that Kinzinger's votes in Congress didn't live up to the message of his 2010 campaign.

So Mitt Romney, a man with a weak record of conservativism, who now campaigns as a severe conservative wins the votes of Illinois Republicans by 12 points. Other than an increased lead of 33 delegates, and millions spend in Ad money, there is nothing else gained. Just 4 short days later Rick Santorum trampled Romney in Louisiana by 22points. Chicagoland Republican voters have handed victories to liberal and moderate Republicans many times in recent years. It's no wonder that Romney's past liberal record coupled with a round of carpetbombing the airwaves swayed these voters to pick Romney. Unfortunately, come November, these same voters will be neutralized by the Democrat machine, as Obama tops Romney by 20 points.

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