Well, Romney wins Michigan. And as Aaron Goldstein lamented, "I can't help but think that if not for Santorum's lacklustre debate performance in Arizona last week that he might have prevailed tonight." I will concede that there is some truth to that, just as I know that the Romney/Paul alliance also contributed. But I guess this is the ADD American Idol nation that we've sadly become. Way to fight the establishment, guys.
So, what does this mean for conservatism? A couple of things. First, it's becoming clearer that as long as Paul shields Romney, and we have more than one defined 'conservative' challenger to Romney, our chance of having a conservative face Barack Obama in the general election continues to decline. That doesn't comfort me in saying so, but just take a look at the slim margin of victory by which Romney won Michigan's primary, and it's not too difficult to do the math to figure out what could have been.
So what if Romney returns, once again, to presumptive nominee status, as will most certainly be the line Wednesday morning, then proceeds on to the nomination? Well, there lies our second conundrum. Besides the tantrum throughout the day that signified a severe weakness in the establishment's candidate, Romney managed to reveal one certainty: he believes it's easy to excite the base, but he's just not willing to go the distance to do so. In other words, he's not willing to go after Obama, like he's gone after his conservative rivals (the mark of a card-carrying establishment member, if ever there has been...and recent history can attest to that affirmation). It's this unwillingness, that despite his efforts and perceived ease, will not excite the base...
"It’s very easy to excite the base with incendiary comments. We’ve seen throughout the campaign if you’re willing to say really outrageous things that are accusative, attacking of President Obama, that you’re going to jump up in the polls. I’m not willing to light my hair on fire to try and get support. ...I think this president's taken us in a very dangerous direction, and that we've got to get him out of the White House, but I'm not willing to say anything to get that nod."
No one's asking him to 'light his hair on fire' or to say anything, just show some conservative guts to take this Marxist on...but if he's not even willing to call him such...well, then that's not going to help him defeat Obama.
Nothing truly frustrates me more than to see the party elite jubilant in not learning the err of the last presidential election, only to risk repeating its fate with a lite candidate of pale pastels.
It's equally discomforting that the establishment already has its excuses lined up for Romney's defeat in the general, whether that be directed at us "if people had just gotten in line when we told them to," or at conservatism itself because his "increasingly conservative rhetoric on a number of hot-button issues could hurt him" against Obama. Make no mistake, as Tom Blumer of PJMedia writes, "Across America, state Republican parties and legislators are pursuing the opponents they most despise with renewed vigor."
You would think that the targets of these efforts are President Barack Obama and Democratic Party officeholders who are hell-bent on turning America into a financially broken, post-constitutional, Washington-controlled playground safe only for crony capitalists and regulators gone wild. You would be wrong.
They have expected genuine conservatives to swallow their pride for decades and vote for moderate squishes who were in some ways barely better than their Democratic brethren (e.g., John McCain, Bob Dole, and Gerald Ford nationally, as well as more state and local candidates than one can hope to count). But as was the case in 1980 with Ronald Reagan, it appears that there is no establishment desire to reciprocate and provide meaningful resources to the winners if their people lose, starting with Mitt Romney and his acolytes at the national level and moving on down from there — even if it leads to Barack Obama’s reelection.
This election certainly doesn't have to be a choice about the lesser of two evils, or even the lite version of the 'real deal'; however, the GOP establishment, along with its candidate and his campaign, have undermined and disregarded its base every step of the primary process and continue to do their damnedest to see this inevitable trajectory through...and conservatives resent it.
ADDENDUM: Levin displayed equal concern about a Romney nomination and the state of the Republican Party on whole...