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Expert Comment: Romney Limps Along...

US 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’s victories in the Michigan and Arizona primary races appear to give some added credibility to his campaign.  He won comfortably in Arizona, but only narrowly in Michigan, with Santorum doggedly hanging on in the campaign. The recent round of primaries does however create a range of questions about how the Republican campaign has unfolded and how it has been portrayed.

Romney’s predicament is that while he is the front runner in the campaign he just can’t get a strong hold over the party. In exit poll after exit poll he seems ever more distanced from the right wing of the party, and his sparring with Gingrich and Santorum exacerbates this tension. The funding issue also is a problem, with the campaign expenditure not translating into decisive outcomes. Additionally, with three candidates still theoretically in the race Romney is not pulling in money to his cause as he is competing with others to acquire funding and campaign donations. Conversely Obama can sit unopposed for the Democrats and be the sole beneficiary of campaign donations across the whole year.

Santorum has created headlines and controversy in equal measure. His questioning of the historical separation of church and state in America, as outlined in the Constitution, appeared to present him as a radical who might undo political and legal precedent. Santorum only appeals in polls to social conservatives and this, across the long term, suggests that he has little hope of winning over swing voters. He also has had problems with Gingrich remaining in the race, and dividing the right wing Republican vote. Yet he has been able to run a campaign on limited funds and has a charisma and media persona that eludes Romney.

In March the candidates face a range of obstacles. Ohio is the location of an important primary as it is perceived to be a key state in terms of diverse demographics, and hence a good barometer of how popular a candidate might be in November. The Ohio race is part of what is known as Super Tuesday, March 6th, when a raft of states hold a primary election on a single day. This should give a clear indication where the Republican party is headed. The worry for all the Republican candidates is that there are signs of some economic recovery, and if true, then the mantra of radical economic reform may start to fall on deaf ears.

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