Romney has work to do with Iowa social conservatives

Some people with big megaphones in the Iowa Republican world are still not sold on Mitt Romney for president.  

Most Republicans in Iowa and across the country will unite behind the GOP nominee as the lesser evil compared to President Barack Obama. But some people who played a big role in getting out the Iowa Republican vote two years ago aren't planning to go to bat for Romney.

Steve Deace is a leading Iowa conservative talk radio personality. Shortly before the 2008 general election, the Mike Huckabee supporter notoriously told listeners that he wasn't voting for John McCain.

Deace endorsed Newt Gingrich shortly before this year's Iowa caucuses and continued to make the case for Gingrich on his radio show, website and national cable networks this winter. Last month Deace gave up hoping for another Gingrich rally and called on conservatives to unite behind Santorum in order to "deny Romney and the Republicrat establishment the nomination."

Deace once said, "I would need to hear the audible voice of God telling me to vote for Mitt Romney to go in that direction." You probably won't be surprised to learn that he didn't jump on the bandwagon this week.

Throughout this campaign and his entire political career, Rick Santorum has been an exasperating study in contrast as a man with both admirable moral convictions, and a cringe-inducing pattern of surrendering before the climactic battle.

As Santorum ended his presidential bid on Tuesday, both were on frustrating display. In the end, sadly, it was Santorum's tendency to stand down rather than standing his ground that won out yet again.  [...]

We have no more deals to make. We have no more excuses to keep "taking one for the team" that never takes one for us. We have no more time to waste compromising our integrity and our principles before an increasingly skeptical public with little more justification other than "my political hack is better than your political hack." [...]

Unfortunately my instincts proved correct. Still, there is good news here for grassroots conservatives.

Obamney is going to lose to Obama this November. RINOs never win presidential elections, and sitting presidents win about 70% of the time as it is. When faced with a choice between outright liberalism versus the milquetoast variety, the country always chooses to go with gusto. Just ask President Ford, President Dole, and President McCain. Obamney is all the lame of Dole, with the integrity of John Kerry.

The 2016 election cycle will begin immediately after Obamney loses. Several promising next generation conservatives will smell blood in the water, and we'll have a much better field of candidates than we had in 2012. And if Santorum thinks quitting like this is how he'll follow the GOP's self-defeating tradition of nominating the next white guy in line, he's got another [think] coming. [...]

What conservatives need is an alpha male who will go for the metaphorical kill shot against the party establishment. A champion who believes second place is the first loser. Someone who is willing to do what it takes to win, even if costs him a shot at being the next Fox News contributor. Someone who understands the best defense is a good offense.

Count on Deace to repeatedly urge his large audience not to compromise their principles by checking the box next to Romney's name. His Twitter feed is full of disdain for those lining up behind the nominee in waiting:

Make sure to keep a list of who caved to the Republicrat establishment in 2012 so that you know not to waste your time with them in 2016.

And ridicule:

So Mitt Romney refuses to sign Susan B. Anthony anti-abortion pledge, but today gets their endorsement. You can't make this stuff up.

And warnings:

Memo to those who want to be next nominee in 2016: if you spend 2012 lecturing conservatives to get in line behind Obamney it won't be you.

Cary Gordon, a pastor at a large church in Sioux City, was a prominent figure in the 2010 campaign against retaining three Iowa Supreme Court justices. The Sioux City Journal's Bret Hayworth caught up with Gordon this week.

The pastor said "millions" of American conservatives won't vote for Romney. He said conservatives won't be impressed with the logic of: Vote For Romney Or Else We Get Obama Again.

"Some people are just tired of the Republican establishment betraying our values and sort of forcing us, that we have to pick someone that we find objectionable, and people are tired of it. You can browbeat people all day, and say, 'Well, you have to vote, because if you don't vote, then we are gonna get Obama.' That's just not a great talking point," Gordon said.

"... As a minister, I happen to know this is the truth -- there is no such thing as a moral obligation to vote for someone that you find morally objectionable. That just doesn't exist in the real world. And so, there are millions of Americans, in the next election cycle, that will stay at home -- doesn't matter how you brow beat them, doesn't matter what you say -- they are not gonna vote, because they are angry, and that is reality."

Gordon said establishment Republicans push moderate candidates, but the reality is that Republicans only defeated an incumbent Democratic president once in the last 100 years -- when a true conservative, Ronald Reagan, beat Jimmy Carter.

Gordon seems unaware that Reagan would be derided as a "Republican in Name Only" today, given his repeated tax increases and support for giving amnesty to undocumented immigrants. But that's a topic for another post.

There's nothing Romney can do to bring people like Deace and Gordon around, but he needs to find a way to reassure the grassroots social conservatives.

Shane Vander Hart, one of the Iowa Republican bloggers to endorse Santorum last year, pondered this week "What to Do With Mitt Romney Now That Rick Santorum Is Out?"

I've been accused by a certain media personality that I will now move on to explain to my readers why they should vote for Mitt Romney.  I will do no such thing because frankly I've not totally decided what I will do in terms of the Presidential campaign.  One thing I will not do is endorse.  I doubt I'll even tell you who I'm voting for other than it will not be for Barack Obama.  [...]

I think there needs to be a lot of grace and deference shown here.  I will not begrudge anyone who decides to vote for Romney or someone who decides to vote third party.  I also understand what is at stake in this election and how bad President Obama is, and how disastrous another four years of his administration would be unchecked.

So the call to be salt and light - salt in this instance for Christians is one that we need to take seriously and prayerfully.  Because of this I reject calls to "coalesce" behind the nominee - I'm a Christian first, a conservative second, and a Republican (if I still maintain my registration as such) third.  Romney has done more to divide my party so the calls to coalesce ring hallow.  He has much to prove as he ran the dirtiest, most negative campaign of anyone in the Republican field and has has largely ignored issues I care deeply about.  So I can totally understand why some would never vote for him. [...]

But no endorsement for Romney from me.  I'll point out where I think he's right and continue to pound on him where I think he's wrong - that will not change.  I may end up voting for him, but that will likely be it. No yard sign, no volunteering, and I'm certainly not going to tell any of you how to vote.

I'm surprised to see Vander Hart rule out any support for Romney beyond (possibly) voting for him. After his preferred candidate lost the 2010 GOP primary for governor, Vander Hart had no trouble supporting Terry Branstad in the general election.

"Iowans Rock," who used to blog at Iowa Defense Alliance, has been one of the strongest Santorum backers in the Iowa Twitterverse. She has nearly 2,400 followers and has been mixing it up on Twitter all week. For instance:

Pro-life organizations jumping to Romney now. What will they do when he etch-a-sketches their issue as he panders his way to the WH?

Iowans Rock reminds me of my friends who tried to talk me into voting for Ralph Nader in 2000:

@CatholicLisa don't let anyone bully you into anything. Candidates lose because they suck and not because of us. Accountable to God only.

I got a kick out of this one:

I have nothing against Ann Romney but she says she was a stay at home mom. Really? Was there a nanny? If there was, that doesn't count.

Maybe Romney won't make a serious play for Iowa, but if things look bad for him in Ohio and/or Florida, he may need this state for a chance at 270 electoral votes. He has no hope here without winning over most of the people who caucused for Santorum.

Pastor Gordon predicted that Romney's weakness with the GOP base will hurt Republicans running for other offices in Iowa. That's a valid concern, though lack of enthusiasm for Romney doesn't automatically mean Iowa Republican turnout will be as poor this year as it was in 2008. Both Vander Hart and Iowans Rock vowed this week to focus on supporting down-ticket GOP candidates. (I can relate, because I have no interest in volunteering for Obama but plan to volunteer for some Democratic state legislative candidates.) With several competitive Congressional races, control of the Iowa Senate at stake, and at least two dozen Iowa House seats up for grabs, there's plenty to keep conservatives excited about voting Republican.

Final note: The Iowa Republican blog publisher Craig Robinson was one of the last to give up on Santorum's chances for winning the nomination. At this writing, he hasn't posted a new commentary since Santorum suspended his campaign. Previously Robinson suggested there isn't much difference between Romney and Obama and raised doubts about the GOP front-runner's electability.

Any comments related to the presidential election are welcome in this thread.

UPDATE: This Mitt Romney Abortion Timeline is a perfect example of why people like Deace distrust the GOP nominee.

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