The Chase 2012

What Romney can do to rally Santorum voters

After a long and bruising Republican primary season, two things are clear: Mitt Romney is the nominee but he is still having trouble closing the deal with many conservative voters.

In the primaries to this point, Romney has won 4.5 million votes, a third fewer than the other Republican candidates combined, at 6.6 million votes, and only about a quarter more than Rick Santorum’s 3.2 million votes.

Romney is the new leader of a party whose base still has serious doubts about him. To unify the Republican Party, Romney must do more than be the Anti-Obama. He must rally all those Non-Romney voters and the millions more they represent. Here are some steps he can take to do that.

First, Romney needs to secure Rick Santorum’s endorsement. A Washington Post poll conducted before Santorum dropped his bid found that a majority of Republicans and GOP leaning independents felt Santorum should stay in the race. Santorum is still popular with the party’s base and beyond.

Romney can begin to win Santorum’s support by offering him a prime-time speaking slot at the Republican
convention in Tampa. Romney should then ask Santorum to campaign on his behalf.

Romney said Santorum will have “an important role” in the party going forward. That role should be as a top surrogate for his campaign. Santorum performed well with the very voters Romney struggles to attract: evangelicals, orthodox Catholics, Tea Party enthusiasts and very conservative voters. Romney should bring Santorum with him when he addresses these groups.

Romney’s main message, of course, will be about the economy. But he shouldn’t forget cultural issues. Romney suffers from a 20-point “gender gap” against Obama. And the media have advanced the idea that a Republican “war on women” is to blame.

But there is little evidence that recent battles over abortion and the administration’s contraceptive mandate are contributing to the gap. Polls show women support the right of religious groups not to be forced to violate their deeply held beliefs. Other polls show that the economy is by far a more important issue for female voters; whereas birth control issues rank well down the list of their priorities.

Romney’s gender gap doesn’t mean he needs to shy away from cultural issues, however. Women are not a monolith and many are conservative on social issues. Take abortion, where Gallup has noted, “Over the past three decades, men and women have consistently held similar views about the extent to which abortion should be legal.”

Romney can learn from Santorum, who surprised all the pundits by performing extremely well among female Republican primary voters. As Santorum did, Romney should integrate discussions about cultural issues within the context of larger public policy questions including economic issues.

It wouldn’t hurt for Romney to open up a little more to give voters a glimpse of his family life. Boring managerial talks about the economy won’t cut it. Despite the media’s narrative, Santorum thrived by stressing his family man credentials, attracting women voters as well as social and religious conservatives. Romney has by all accounts a rock solid family life. He shouldn’t be afraid to talk about it in more than general terms.

Romney also must confront President Obama head on. The Romney campaign has on a number of occasions signaled that it will not aggressively challenge Obama. “I won’t light my hair on fire,” the candidate said in late February.

But the Obama campaign is expected to deploy its full rhetorical arsenal against Romney. It will portray him as a tax cheating flip flopper who doesn’t understand the challenges of ordinary Americans. Romney doesn’t need to light his hair on fire, but he absolutely needs to make crystal clear the distinctions between himself and Obama on all the issues.

Finally, Romney must pick an across-the-board conservative as his running mate and make a strong defense of conservative values during his acceptance speech at the convention.

The conventional wisdom holds that Romney won’t have to do much outreach to conservatives to gain their support — that the prospect of a second Obama term will be enough to get even the most diehard anti-Romney conservatives to pull the lever for him on Nov. 6.

“I think you see our party…more united [than] it’s been in a long time,” Romney told Fox News last week. “I think President Obama in some respects is one of the reasons our party will be so united.”

But Romney can’t take conservative support for granted. To beat Obama, Romney needs his party’s base to be enthusiastic about his candidacy. If Romney shakes the Etch a Sketch, pivots to the center and runs a John McCain-like campaign, he will end up suffering the same fate.

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  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_OHBKTCSIRF6UL4KLQDAWQINPSE Thomas

    I’ve noticed that places like National Review always run these great think pieces in the off-season about limited government and morals and so forth, but I’m pretty sure ROmney or a crony of his made a large donation to them because they started running “the Reagan in ROmney” stories and I about threw-up.

    I noticed they can’t really run good stories anymore on many topics because if you support ROmney it is hard to write good stuff because ROmney doesn’t fit with the great ideas, I mean how do you write an article advocating the great conservative ideas and ROmney at the same time?

    It tends to make Romney look bad to talk about conservative theory and him on the same page.

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_OHBKTCSIRF6UL4KLQDAWQINPSE Thomas

    If he could prove his health was bad and appoint a conservative VP I would put up a Mitt sign the next day, but then again we would have to trust him on the poor health thing and I don’t trust him, so never mind.

    I also won’t support him in any way other than I will vote against Obama whether with him or a third party I will have to wait and see how bad he insults us and how much liberalism he promises,

    Unless of course we can get to a brokered convention by supporting Newt. I mean Mitt just threw FOX news, the hand that fed him under the bus by calling them “true believers” and their audience the “Fox Faithful”  Nice, nice. What an @__:disqus HOLE!

    I have started to dislike FOX over their support of Mitt and even I felt that one!But what did they think would happen? This is what RINOS do; this happens every time so why expect different results?

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_OHBKTCSIRF6UL4KLQDAWQINPSE Thomas

    I think it is who they are; the old GOP was for abortion and were for Planned Parenthood, many folks forget that Reagan changed that.

    The old GOP, especially Old man Romney the brain-washed (as he claimed himself) were for all the new deal great society stuff.

    They thought of a lot of the progressive agenda.