Former Governor Mitt Romney is on the verge of sweeping this Tuesday's Republican primary elections. Likely wins in Wisconsin, Maryland and the District of Columbia will add significantly to his already commanding delegate lead, and increase pressure on his opponents to throw their support to the former Massachusetts Governor.
More leading Republicans are getting on the Romney bandwagon each day in hopes of ending the divisiveness that has characterized much of the Republican primary campaign so far. Even after all of their harsh criticisms, former Senator Rick Santorum and former House Speaker Newt Gingrich have each said they will support Romney if he ends up getting the party's nomination. But they both, along with Representative Ron Paul, are still campaigning to be their party's standard-bearer.
Rick Santorum shows no signs of easing up. On Sunday, he compared Romney to Senator John McCain, who lost the 2008 election to President Barack Obama. "We came up with someone who wasn't able to win," Santorum said on Fox News Sunday. "We don't need to repeat that again. We don't need to bail out and not have the best candidate to take Barack Obama on in the fall." Santorum has accused Romney of not being a conservative; flip-flopping on many issues and of being the author of Romneycare, the blue print for the president's health care reform law. Santorum insists he will present a stronger contrast in the general election.
Nonetheless, establishment Republicans have already turned their attention to who would be the best running mate for Romney. Speculation has Florida Senator Marco Rubio as the best choice. A Tea Party favorite, supporters believe Rubio could improve the Republican's chances among Hispanics. Rubio is of Cuban heritage, but Cubans make up only a small percentage of the U.S. Hispanic population. More than 60 percent of that population is Mexican, and they tend to vote for Democrats.
Another potential vice presidential candidate is New Jersey Governor Chris Christie. Christie has campaigned hard for Romney, and his blunt, in-your-face style frequently outshines the former governor in joint appearances. But voters in a presidential election don't vote for a president because of their running mate. That is up until now.
This election will rest heavily on Mitt Romney's ability to convince voters he is more qualified for the job than President Obama. And that he has a better plan to increase employment, lower gasoline prices and assure America's national security. Yet many of his proposals feel like déjà vu; the same Republican policies of cutting taxes on the wealthiest Americans while ending some loopholes, more oil and gas drilling rather than developing alternatives, and an extremely hard-line foreign policy. Or will he wipe his Etch A Sketch clean and redo his positions for the general election?
The fact is Mitt Romney is an opportunist. That is how he made his money in business. And Mitt Romney is an elitist. He is from the upper tier of the one-per centers. His friends own football teams, they don't play for them. He cannot easily connect with regular people; he's a Mittbot. So he is prone to make comments that most normal people consider gaffs.
Who can forget this Romney gem last August from Iowa: "Corporations are people, my friend... of course they are. Everything corporations earn ultimately goes to the people. Where do you think it goes? Whose pockets? Whose pockets? People's pockets. Human beings, my friend." Or this heart-warming comment two months ago, "I like being able to fire people who provide services to me." And about the same time, "I'm not concerned about the very poor. We have a safety net there."
Several times over these past few months he has tried very hard to sound like an Average Joe. "There were a couple of times I wondered whether I was going to get a pink slip," he said earlier this year to some volunteers. Or his attempt to feel empathy for a group of unemployed, "I should tell my story. I'm also unemployed." Romney is worth more than $200 million. And the truth surfaced when speaking in Michigan in February, "[My wife] drives a couple of Cadillacs." Of course, who can forget the $10,000 bet offer to Texas Governor Rick Perry during a Republican debate in December?
Given Romney's difficulty in winning over voters from his own party, the lack of enthusiasm for him among evangelicals, conservatives and members of the Tea Party, his numerous flip-flops, Romneycare, and his propensity to make gaffs, he will need all the help he can get to win over the national electorate. Help may come if the economy gets worse, gas prices continue to rise or if there is some national security setback for President Obama before the November election.
More likely, Romney will look for a strong running mate who can fill in the many shortcomings he has as a presidential candidate. And that person will become the party's frontrunner in 2016 if President Obama wins reelection in November. Even if a then twice beaten Mitt Romney decides to make a third run at the White House.