There’s a rough road ahead for Republicans

Matthew White

Gov. Mitt Romney gave the best speech of his campaign, brandished his hands to quiet the crowd from chanting “all the way to the convention,” and then promptly dropped out of the race.

Now, to be fair, I’ve never considered myself a Romney person, which has something to do with a statement he made in the 1990s about not wanting to return to a Reagan-Bush era. Just to be clear, that’s the Ronald Reagan-George H.W. Bush era.

But, as I sat next to 1,500 other people at the speech — some of them openly weeping, many of them wailing “no!” — I realized he might just have been the best Republican in the race. And right as I realized it, he let all of us know it was done.

America and the Republican Party lost a great opportunity when Gov. Romney stepped out of this race, and the impact may reverberate amongst the pundits, policies and the people for the next four or eight years.

I do believe Sen. John McCain will be the next president — not because he’s the best choice overall — but because he’s a better choice than Sens. Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama. And, I’m confident America — perhaps differently than the Kent State campus — will come to the same conclusion.

But it’s going to be a long, hard road to get there.

For one thing, there’s all the political violence involved in a general election battle that pits McCain against Obama’s impressive charisma or Clinton’s attack machine. Against either opponent, McCain is going to have a very difficult time.

But McCain is the candidate of moderate Republicans and independents, and he will live and die by how they receive him. This could make McCain a very formidable opponent for the Democrats — both of whom will appear very liberal when matched against his moderate positions.

McCain’s challenge lies with the conservative movement, which has consistently battled with him during the past eight years. He may be able to win them over — but only if he joins with them on the issues of immigration, campaign finance reform and appointing strict constructionist judges.

It was in this position that the Romney campaign showed its true strength; before he left the race, Romney had become the candidate who filled the conservative void. Unfortunately, he filled it too late and left the race too early. And, even more unfortunately, the conservative movement failed to recognize the potential of a Romney candidacy.

So, as a room of shocked and shaken conservatives reeled in horror with the realization that the person they liked least was going to be the man to take up the Republican banner, there’s plenty of blame to go around. The conservative movement could — and should — have accepted the imperfect Romney in order to avoid the inadequate McCain.

But that time is now past. Republicans of all ideological stances must accept McCain for all his flaws because it’s ultimately better to win than it is to lose; it’s better to have a moderate Republican in office than no Republican at all.

Matthew White is a senior magazine journalism major and a columnist for the Daily Kent Stater. Contact him at [email protected].