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Mitt Romney best bet for Republicans

Guest Columnist

Published: Monday, January 2, 2012

Updated: Sunday, January 8, 2012 13:01

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Don Wright/Tribune Media Services

"Democrats fall in love, Republicans fall in line," is an old saying about how the two parties like to elect their presidents. Up until today, it has held true. Come-from-behind victories from charismatic shadow candidates like President Barack Obama have dominated the Democratic primaries. Meanwhile, Republicans almost always pick establishment candidates they think can win.

Yet today there is a radically different electoral process than the Republican elections of yore. Election season 2012 has kicked off, and voters in Iowa are heading to the polls to select the Republican they want to see running against Obama. Of the seven candidates running today, we have seen five soar to the top of the polls only to crash down again. A sixth, Rick Santorum, is the current candidate surging. It has been, to put it mildly, an interesting turn of events.

The front runner in the state for most of this has been Mass. Governor Mitt Romney, who has held a steady 20 percent in the polls since he came in to the race. Yet he has been attacked by Iowan Republicans as too moderate, too liberal and too much part of the establishment.

They have room to complain. Romney introduced healthcare legislation in Massachusetts strikingly similar to the one Obama introduced in 2008; he also believes in global warming and supports the bank bailouts. He is, however, the Republicans' only chance of unseating Obama in 2012.

This may come as a surprising thing to say about a man who is now presiding over a country with the worst economy since the Great Depression, but unseating Obama is not going to be as easy as the Republicans want to believe. For one, it is incredibly hard to defeat an incumbent president. Since 1900, only five of the 14 incumbent presidents have been defeated, according to the Washington Examiner. It seems that Americans prefer to keep the president they have rather than risk nixing him for someone new.

Not to mention Obama has a treasure chest of victories, including healthcare, financial reform, taking out Osama bin Laden, withdrawing from Iraq and maintaining steady economic growth since taking office. He could also very well be the greatest campaigner this country has ever seen and will no doubt be using everything at his disposal to win in 2012.

Despite all these setbacks, Republicans do hold a shot at winning back the White House. The economy is slugging along at incredibly low levels, and it doesn't look like it's going to get much better. With the European debt situation hanging over the head of America's economic recovery, the economy may be heading for a second economic downturn, and Obama's re-election chances will be summarily sunk.

However, if the Republicans want to win this, they need to elect a moderate candidate who can appeal to independent voters. The field of Republicans we see now has only one viable candidate that fits that description: Romney. In poll after poll, Obama handily squashes all of the other Republican opponents in head-to-head polling. Yet against Romney, the polls show that the race will be, essentially, tied.

If you've ever read any of my articles before, you'll know that I fall decidedly Democratic in my views, so I would love to see the Republicans nominate someone like Ron Paul or Newt Gingrich. However, my instincts tell me that Republicans are going to do what they've done before — fall in line and nominate someone they think can win, not someone they love.

If they don't, this election season will be over before it's started.

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