In the course of his campaign for the Republican presidential nomination, Mitt Romney has shown a level of grit and determination that few politicians have matched. He has withstood attacks from the mainstream media and the emerging conservative media as well as his fellow contenders.
He has seen his poll numbers plummet and the possibility of his nomination dismissed. And yet he kept on fighting. Not only did the former Massachusetts governor show how much he wanted to win, he also showed how attuned he is to the criticisms of conservatives, progressively spelling out a bolder and more Reaganesque economic agenda. That hasn’t satisfied everyone on the right, but it does seem to have moved a number, including Rush Limbaugh (more on this in my next post).
That said, he still has to tend to a lot of “coalition maintenance.”* He needs to reach out to conservative leaders, activists and bloggers, chief among them RedState’s Erick Erickson, one of Mitt Romney’s harshest critics in the blogosphere — but a principled enough man to acknowledge the conservatism of Jon Huntsman’s economic plan (even as he frequently criticized and ocasionally criticized the man). In fact, I would recommend that when Romney schedules meetings with conservative bloggers, he sit down privately with Erickson so he can hear the full measure of the blogger’s message.
To show you just how well Erickson, himself quite sympathetic with social conservatives, understands the movement, let me quote from his piece acknowledging that Romney will be the nominee, in particular, his remarks on Rick Santorum’s failure to rally enough conservatives to his cause:
The Santorum campaign stumbled badly in Puerto Rico, gave up a lead in Illinois, and the candidate proved horribly undisciplined. Like Dug the dog in Up getting distracted by every random squirrel, Rick Santorum loses all ability to focus when social issues come up.
Emphasis added. Due in part to media filtering, Santorum made it appear that he was more focused on social issues than he actually was. That said, this paragraph suggests (to me at least) that had Santorum, like the socially conservative Governor of Virginia, managed to keep his focus on economic issues, he might have succeeded in preventing the media from defining him by his social conservatism.
The post, on the whole, merits your attention. There, as in other posts, Erickson voices the frustrations of many movement conservatives, unhappy with the nominee, yet aware of the flaws of the other candidates. And that is why Mitt Romney needs to meet with Erick Erickson.
He can learn firsthand from one man why so many movement conservatives remain wary of his candidacy for the White House.
*to borrow an expression Paul Gigot coined in a January edition of WSJ.com’s Political Diary (available by subscription) back in January.