WASHINGTON, September 21, 2011—If Rick Perry was the punching bag during the last Republican debate, the role is sure to be transferred to Mitt Romney for this Thursday’s debate in Florida. The former Governor of Massachusetts has had his hands full combating accusations that he is not conservative enough and has been forced to defend his state healthcare policy and his comments on global warming. Last Thursday he received the endorsement that no Republican ever wants to get: Jimmy Carter’s.
In an interview with Rachel Maddow on MSNBC, Carter said that he would be “very pleased to see him win the Republican nomination.” For a presidential candidate trying to win over conservative Republicans, this endorsement is a telling sign of what kind of president he would be.
It may surprise some people that a figure of the left such as Carter would throw such kind words at Romney. It should surprise no one, however, that Romney would be one of the most big government Republican presidents this country has ever seen, which is precisely the reason that Carter endorsed him.
We shouldn’t forget that Jimmy Carter created the Department of Energy and the Department of Education, two bureaucracies that Republicans once wanted to obliterate. We should also remember the controls that were set on energy prices during the Carter administration, which helped to engineer severe energy shortages, long lines at the gas pump, and the almost complete elimination of domestic energy exploration.
These were big government policies, and the only reason that Carter would want Romney to get the nomination is his wish for the status quo of big government to continue.
The fact that Romney still polls reasonably well among most other Republican presidential candidates means one of two things: Either there is still a large wing of the Republican Party that is relatively liberal and does not believe in limited government, or Romney has done a brilliant job in hiding his record and his positions from the mainstream media and likely voters. The reality is probably a little bit of both.
Governor Romney has always been a smooth talker. Invoking Ronald Reagan when he needs to and riding out small storms such as his healthcare policy have helped him so far, but an endorsement from Republicans’ least favorite president since FDR (though Obama is giving him a run for his money) might be the straw that breaks the camel’s back.
Romney is likely to stay near the top of national polls for a little while, but he has most likely lost any chance at winning over the most conservative Republicans.
Romney’s 2012 campaign is beginning to look similar to John McCain’s campaign in 2008. He is not a front-runner because of his conservative views, but because of his name recognition, stemming from the fact that he ran four years ago against McCain. There are many differences between the two, but the most obvious difference is that even the liberal McCain never received an endorsement from the likes of Carter.
We can’t ignore the fact that some Republicans do not care about limited government. Some of them only want a powerful government which is run by someone with an ‘R’ next to his name instead of a ‘D’. If this is what the Republicans want, then Romney is their man. He will do nothing to shrink the size of government.
While this endorsement will not completely destroy Romney’s campaign, it will be what many Republicans need to be convinced that Romney is no conservative. One would have already known this after a clear look at his policies, but he has done an excellent job in obscuring his former political life. Most voters do not spend much time researching candidates, and Romney might have had a chance to fool them, but that will all change during the next debate. One can bet that almost all of the other candidates will make it an issue, which will make it very interesting to watch.
Romney will most likely take the advice of Mike Huckabee and publicly express appreciation for Carter’s support but then explain to voters that he doesn’t endorse the former president’s views. This will fool some voters, but most will finally see Romney for what he really is: a big government Republican.
Conor Murphy is a graduate of Virginia Commonwealth University with a degree in political science. As a former radio talk show host on WVCW, Conor hosted two popular shows, Murphy’s Law and Son of the Revolution. You can read more of his columns in The Political Pro-Con at The Washington Times Communities
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