Expert Comment: Mitt's New ChallengesWednesday 25 April 2012
Dr. Robert Busby, Senior Lecturer in the Department of Politics, History, Media and Communication at Liverpool Hope University
The decision by Rick Santorum to drop out of the US presidential race now clarifies the evolution of the US presidential contest from the spring through to the head-to-head contest between Romney and Obama in November. While Gingrich maintains that he will not withdraw, the nomination of Romney is now secure and political analysts and media pundits are evaluating the consequences of Romney’s success thus far.
One of the quirks of the race recently has been a discussion about the role of women in politics and in society more generally. Romney’s wife, Ann Romney has never had a job and has portrayed herself as a homemaker, having brought up five children. This has prompted discussion about Romney’s understanding of the position of working families in America and brought contrasts with other political families. In recent times the Republican party has celebrated its appreciation of working women and their understanding of modern America, with Sarah Palin and Michelle Bachmann both having had five children, working, and portraying themselves as being in touch with contemporary family concerns in the US. Ann Romney’s position has opened up a debate about the modern American family, and this development presents Obama’s strategists with an option of casting the Romney family as removed from the pressures of Americans during the economic downturn.
Santorum’s exit need not mean that he will be forgotten during the rest of the campaign. His impact in mobilizing the conservative right presents Romney with a dilemma. He needs to pick a vice-presidential candidate later in the spring, and this is now quite a challenging task. He could go for a geographic choice, looking to a major state like Ohio to attract voters to elect one of their own, such as Senator Rob Portman. Alternately he may now need to make an ideological choice, as many on the right believe he is too liberal. As such as conservative pick might give party balance and serve to mobilize the right and please the Tea Party. He could choose, for example, Senator Marco Rubio from Florida, who could also court the Latino vote. This however, in turn, might serve to alienate swing voters attracted by Romney’s moderate stance in a number of realms.
With every success Romney enjoys there are new challenges brought to bear. In part that is the joy of the American presidential race, and one that the Republican nominee can now turn his attention to, unhindered by Santorum’s valiant effort to challenge him.