Will the real Mitt Romney please stand up?
No country in the world takes its democracy as seriously as the United States. Every office is elected, from lowly town sheriff to leader of the free world. In order to be chosen to represent their political party in the November general election, a candidate must first win smaller elections known as primaries in each of the 50 states.
They are long, drawn out campaigns, but former Governor Mitt Romney has won the place on the ballot. So will Mitt Romney be the first Republican since Ronald Reagan to unseat a one term Democratic president?
At first glance Romney looks like a president. A father of five, he has been married to his wife for over 40 years, as well as being a devout Mormon and local church leader. He made his money in corporate America, and his millions are a testament to his belief in the free market economy. Should he win, he would in fact be the richest President in history.
However, despite triumphing over the wide field of potential Republican candidates, Romney still does not enjoy the wholehearted support of conservative America, with even traditionally Republican outlets such as Fox News appearing unenthused by his victory. So why is this?
Firstly, many believe that he is just not conservative enough to engage the key Republican voter bases in the mid-western and the southern states. In a poll taken in December, one in five people surveyed who described themselves as conservative said they thought Romney was too liberal.
Part of the this problem stems from the fact that he was governor of Massachusetts, an east coast state, regarded by many as a breeding ground for Democrat voters. During the campaign for the Republican nomination, his closest rival was Rick Santorum, whose stances against abortion, gay marriage and universal healthcare checked many of the conservative boxes. Romney, by contrast was accused of setting up a healthcare system in Massachusetts that was modelled on the much-maligned ‘Obamacare’, and not being vocal enough about his opposition to gay marriage.
Romney has also come under criticism for changing his opinion to suit the crowd he is addressing. At a rally in Jackson, Mississippi, he greeted the crowd with a ‘Morning y’all’, going on to say that he’d ‘started the day right with some cheesy grits’, the southern equivalent of oatmeal. The voters were unimpressed with this pandering, leaving Romney to trail in the polls behind his more conservative competitors.
This perceived lack of true conservative credentials has seen Romney attempt take more extreme stances on some key issues. For example, in a debate in Iowa in December 2011, he announced that he would veto the DREAM Act, which would allow a path to citizenship for young, commonly Hispanic, illegal immigrants who enrol in university or serve in the military.
Polls have shown that immigration is consistently one of the most important electoral issues among conservative voters. However, just one month later in a reversal of his previous statement he told a crowd in Florida – a state with a 20% Hispanic population – that he would soften his approach to the DREAM Act, favouring what he termed ‘self deportation’.
A Republican congressman from Texas said: ‘If you are not sure about wanting to support Mitt Romney, whether you are liberal or very conservative, you should be excited because he’s been on your side at one time or another’.
It’s clear that Mitt Romney is not the strong conservative leader that many Republicans were hoping for. That said, the fact that Romney has beaten more consverative candidates such as Rick Perry and Newt Gingrich suggests that he must be doing something right.
In a poll taken in November 2011, 60% of Republicans surveyed said they thought Romney was intelligent, with 69% saying they thought his business background would be an asset.
It would appear then that Republican voters are focusing on his strengths in the world of economics and business. He has a strong record on job creation: on average 15,000 people a year were able to find new jobs in Massachusetts under his tenure, something that many Americans will see as vital in these troubled economic times.
As a seasoned businessman who cut his teeth on the trading floors of Wall Street, Romney may have more economic experience than President Obama, but will that be enough to send him to the White House? With seven months to go until the election it’s too early to say, but come November, President Obama is going to have a fight on his hands.