Former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney “won” the Iowa Caucuses on Tuesday by eight votes over Rick Santorum and is poised for a big GOP primary victory next week in New Hampshire. He’s got the backing of the national GOP establishment, the mainstream media and the Washington, D.C. special interests – and has a mountain of his own money to burn on the race.
Oh … he’s also got two of the highest profile endorsements heading into South Carolina’s “First in the South” primary on January 21, and could pick up even more Palmetto State support in the event Rick Perry (who has literally dozens of South Carolina politicians backing his campaign) decides to drop out of the race and release his supporters.
So we might as well go ahead and print the Romney v. Obama ballots, right?
Not yet …
In fact, the real story coming out of Iowa isn’t necessarily the eight votes that enabled Romney to edge Santorum, it’s the six votes that he didn’t get.
Allow us to explain: The 30,015 vote total that Romney received in Iowa this year was six shy of the 30,021 votes he received there in 2008 – a perfect numerical expression of the “Romney Ceiling.”
What is the “Romney Ceiling?”
It’s the inability of Romney (over the past five years anyway) to extend his base beyond the one out of four Republicans who support him. Dating back to November 2010, Romney’s national polling averages have yet to clear the 25 percent mark according to Real Clear Politics. That was good enough to keep him in the frontrunner position through August, which is when the indecisive GOP electorate swooned over Rick Perry, then Herman Cain and most recently Newt Gingrich.
While the flame outs of these “flavors of the month” have been spectacular, Romney hasn’t benefited from any of them.
Well, that brings us to the other important thing about the “Romney Ceiling.” The people living under its roof don’t necessarily like Romney, they’re backing him because they’re afraid of four more years of Barack Obama and have been led to believe that he’s the most “electable” Republican.
“People need to vote with their head, not necessarily with their heart,” Romney consultant Warren Tompkins recently said, epitomizing the basic modus operandi of the Romney campaign.
Oh … and if you think Romney’s current GOP supporters are less-than-enthusiastic, imagine trying to convert the three-quarters of the Republican electorate that has resisted purchasing his snake oil over the last five years.
That’s the real story of the “Romney ceiling.”
Whereas supporters of U.S. Rep. Ron Paul (like this website and its founding editor) are passionate subscribers to a specific ideology and would walk on hot coals for their candidate, Romney has no discernible ideology and his “supporters” tend to tip toe uncomfortably around the numerous problems they have with him as a result. Among those? His prior support for socialized medicine and tax hikes – or the fact that he’s decidedly anti-transparent and tends to be lying when his lips are moving.
Then there’s Romney’s Mormon faith – which a huge chunk of GOP voters (especially in South Carolina) still view as membership in some sort of polygamist cult.
Obviously there’s still a good chance that Romney will be able to break through his ceiling at some point … or at least raise that ceiling sufficiently to capture the GOP nomination. But that doesn’t mean such a scenario is “inevitable,” and even if it does happen – it doesn’t mean he should be the GOP nominee.
The more we look at the 2012 field, Romney should probably be considered the least electable Republican – if for no other reason than his victory would guarantee a third party challenge.