Op-Ed: Romney Needs to be Battle-Focused in November

By R. Clarke Cooper

I totally get what Romney is doing before Super Tuesday.  Any candidate running for their party’s presidential nomination has to appeal to their base before they can begin focusing on winning the general election. Unfortunately for Republicans, some of the current GOP presidential candidates don’t seem to get that the way to win the base in 2012 isn’t social conservatism, and that swinging hard to the right on issues a) won’t fire up Republicans, b) risks alienating moderate and independent voters, and c) ultimately weakens any candidate against Obama by handing Democrats ‘flip-flopper’ to use as a weapon.

The majority of voters who will ultimately decide who will win the White House have yet to start paying attention, but you can bet they will be turned off by a candidate with a reputation for lacking conviction. Everybody knows the “flip-flopper” label is a weakness for Governor Romney. Here’s some advice on how he should fight it.

Governor Romney should play to his strengths, and being a social conservative simply is not one. Despite his clear opposition to same-sex marriage (for the record, Log Cabin Republicans and I personally strongly disagree with his position), the leaders of the fading social conservative movement consistently reject him in favor of candidates like Rick Santorum. No matter how many conference calls the governor participates in or the pledges he signs, he will never be able to appease the professional religious right while remaining true to his more mainstream positions in favor of nondiscrimination. Romney won’t win these voters by out-flanking Santorum and Gingrich on social issues – but like gay and lesbian Americans, evangelicals are not single issue voters, either, and what matters in 2012 is the economy.

Governor Romney’s strengths lie in his record as a successful businessman, his status as the lone GOP candidate with executive experience as a governor, and yes, in his perception as the electable Republican in the race.  Even attendees who participated in the recent Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) straw poll recognized Romney is the best of the bunch to take on President Obama.  What some primary voters deride as moderate, general election voters see as mainstream.

Romney can win his base by coming out swinging against Obama’s actions during the economic downturn, like the bailouts of companies too big to fail. Romney understands failure happens in a free market, and free markets, rather than government intervention, are the path to prosperity.

Romney can win his base by talking about how nobody is better suited to attack Obama-care than somebody who has seen it tried in the laboratory of the states, as the Founders intended, and seen its failures.

Most of all, Romney can win his base by remembering that the TEA Party stands for “taxed enough already” – but not if he acts like the Tea Party was more about beverages after church and at exclusively heterosexual wedding receptions.

Gay or straight, evangelical or atheist, even Republican or Democrat, voters in the 2012 general electorate are looking for solutions to the economy. They want to hear a plan from a credible source for creating a real job-creation climate. Many voters don’t care about gay marriage.

Governor Romney can win the general – but only if he abandons the hopeless effort to out-social con the social cons.  Be yourself, Mitt. As I told you at CPAC, stick to what Americans care about; the economy and jobs.  It’s time to get down to business.

About R. Clarke Cooper

R. Clarke Cooper, Executive Director of Log Cabin Republicans, was a diplomat in the Bush administration and a combat veteran of the Iraq campaign. Cooper is a U.S. Army Reserve captain at Fort Meade, Md., and is a member of OutServe. He writes for the OutServe blog, providing perspectives from behind the scenes in Washington. (Twitter: @RClarkeCooper) (Facebook: http://facebook.com/r.clarke.cooper)

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  1. David
    February 18, 2012 at 11:44 AM

    I just reread this post again after seeing the comment criticizing it for being partisan politics. If anybody bothers to read the entire article, they would realize it could have been written by a democrat even. It’s not partisan to type the words Republican and Romney. Nowhere in this post does Clarke criticize the democratic party. I applaud OutServe for providing a balanced conversation on their blog.

  2. Jay Standring
    February 18, 2012 at 8:37 AM

    OUTServe needs to remain out of the partisan political fray. This post (or similar ones, no matter what party afiliation) is not helpful to us as an organization. Not everyone understands the requirements of the Hatch Act, and how it differs for Reservists and Active Duty. There are well enough other blogs and websites that allow you to advocate politically, your freedom of thought or speech are not impaired if the OS blog and magazine (and OS as an organization) remain silent on these issues. We should avoid even the appearance of impropriety. Let’s do better in the future.

  3. TItania Jones
    February 16, 2012 at 4:35 PM

    ‎@ R. Clarke Cooper.

    Really good article. I agree with you completely that Romney should not try to please social conservatives or we risk losing the gains we have made. I have noticed that many socially conservative Democrats who are pro life and traditional marriage, and got real quiet come election time and still voted for Obama.

    Our social conservatives need to make some sacrifices to get what they want in the elections and their unwillingness is going to make it hard for us to succeed! I’m glad however that gay people are going to win either way, as they have built a very diverse and strong platform!

    Republicans have a strong platform on healthcare and they need to focus on this.

    There are 27 states taking Obamacare to the Supreme Court for a decision in November. I live in California, which was the first state to accept Obamacare, and out of all the states California is the furthest along with implementation. (which isn’t saying much). There is hardly any media reporting on the progress of our state run health exchange! As a former states governor Mitt Romney has more experience and ideas on how to work with states all at various stages of working through healthcare and insurance issues Both the subsidized and unsubsidized healthcare exchanges in his state were negotiated and underwritten by private insurers.

    Titania Jones

  4. Chief Joedy Yglesias, USN
    February 16, 2012 at 3:18 PM

    Whether Romney wins the nomination of the Republican party or not, the vast majority of the LBGT community will still vote for our current Commander in Chief, President Obama, and rightly so. There is no reason to risk losing all the gains we have made during this administration to candidate Romney’s overwhelming desire to say and pledge to do whatever it takes to please the Republican base… even if it includes reinstating DADT, as candidate Santorum has pledged to do. Romney has demonstrated that he has no real convictions at all, just a desire to occupy the White House and will say whatever he thinks the Republican base wants to hear to get himself there.
    I wholeheartedly believe that if (and when) President Obama wins reelection he will have a much easier time pushing forward for our equality, especially since he will not have to worry about a reelection campaign again.

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