Former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney is the front-runner Republican in the race for the 2012 presidential nomination. The underwhelming crop of candidates is unprecedented in its apparent ineptitude and lack of notoriety. Though Romney is the early favorite to win the nomination, he still has some challenges ahead of him before he can hope to beat Obama.
Every time thus far a candidate has taken center stage, he has failed miserably.
Donald Trump, who enjoyed front-runner status for all of two weeks, fizzled out and quickly withdrew his name from the race.
Former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich fell flat soon after launching his own campaign via Twitter: first attacking Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) and congressional Republicans for their plan to eliminate Medicare and then, days later, embracing the plan.
Former Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty has failed to create any excitement in his recently announced campaign.
In addition, the two candidates many Republican strategists were most optimistic about, former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee and former Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels, opted not to enter the race last month.
Given the lackluster field of candidates, Romney seems to be the only potential challenger with the ability to beat Obama in 2012. Romney is a proven businessman with executive experience as the governor of Massachusetts.
But Romney does not effectively connect with the American people, especially with those in his own party. After running an unimpressive campaign in 2008, Romney is back with few new ideas in his platform to offer in his second try for the nomination.
Romney launched his campaign on a farm in New Hampshire, the site of the first Republican primary and a must-win state for Romney. It was the typical presidential announcement, with Romney posing in front of a barn draped in the American flag. Romney has had a typical campaign: He has raised tons of money and has many Republican voters backing him.
Yet Romney will not be able to win the Republican nomination because of the Tea Party. Romney’s damning mistake in the eyes of the socially conservative wing of the GOP is the universal healthcare plan he passed as governor of Massachusetts.
Romney’s healthcare plan shares similarities to Obama’s healthcare bill passed last year to the chagrin of Republicans. Romney has been dogged by the healthcare issue every step of the way.
The similarity most criticized is the individual insurance mandate, which requires people to purchase health insurance and punishes individuals who do not.
So far he has produced a handful of varied responses to inquiries about his healthcare plan. In a speech he gave in May, he defended his healthcare plan, stating it was an experiment in giving the state power to make such decisions.
All of his responses amount to one basic fact: Romney is trying, in any way possible, to disown his crowning achievement as governor.
And members of the Tea Party have made it abundantly clear they refuse to throw their support behind a man whose healthcare plan comes close to Obama’s federal bill. Because of this, Romney will have a hard time dealing with Tea Party darlings Michele Bachmann and Sarah Palin, should either choose to enter the race.
The candidate who eventually secures the nomination will have to unite the establishment and Tea Party elements of the Republican Party.
In an attempt to do this, Romney has tried to pander to the Tea Party base, flip-flopping on gay marriage, abortion and, of course, healthcare.
He cannot run from the fact that he was a moderate Republican as governor of Massachusetts. Since that time, the Republican Party has shifted drastically to the right.
Romney is simply too moderate for the majority of Republican voters, and any attempt to change who he is will come off as blatant inauthenticity.
Jordan Klein is a sophomore majoring in political science.