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Expert Comment: Money Can't Buy You Votes

American flag Wednesday 25 April 2012

Dr. Robert Busby, Senior Lecturer in the Department of Politics, History, Media and Communication at Liverpool Hope University

Mitt Romney faces a predicament. While he has the most delegates thus far in the pursuit of the presidential nomination, has the most money to spend and has the best campaign organization of the Republican candidates, what he appears unable to do is bring this advantage to fruition among Republican party members. The victories by Santorum in the Republican primaries in Missouri, Minnesota and Colorado gave hope to the right of the party that the game was not yet up, and there might be another conservative resurgence, on a financial shoestring, which can defy commonplace political logic.

Santorum’s victories are set against a number of factors which explain both his staying power and his apparent popularity. The absence of Gingrich in the races, on account of a lack of funding to campaign in every state really only left one significant alternative to Romney, and consequently the conservative elements rallied strongly behind Santorum. The Tea Party, prominent in the Mid-West, rallied to Santorum and gave added voter mobilization to his cause. The cultural backdrop in these states is more suited to a conservative candidate, and with Santorum’s strong social conservatism the moral causes he advocated resonated well with the underlying conservative Mid-West values. Yet again there was an impression that scepticism about Romney’s religion did not sit well with the conservative elements of the party.

In voting for Santorum there are emergent problems for the Republicans. There is no middle ground in the party. Romney is perceived to be on the left of the party, the other candidates on the right. Ron Paul continues to pick up support, although he is more of an ideological conviction politician who runs on a libertarian mandate and has drawn little support beyond his hard core followers. Whoever comes to the fore as the primary race develops increasingly faces a divided party. Liberal Republicans and potential swing voters will find Santorum’s views unpalatable. If Romney wins he faces considerable pressure, and probable criticism, from those on the right of the party, bitter about the loss of a strong conservative impulse. Romney still holds the winning hand, but as the primary race develops the support for the underdogs appears to be as strong as ever.

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