As Romney, who picked up McCain’s endorsement last week, appears to be gliding to a comfortable victory in New Hampshire’s primary Tuesday, the next major campaign stop, and the GOP establishment begins to rally behind him, he has still yet to capture the trust, energy, and esteem of many rank-and-file Republicans, let alone the Tea Party activists.
The prevailing wisdom among GOP establishmentarians and Romney backers may be: “Take it or leave it, it’s going to be Romney versus Barack Obama.” But if Romney is unable to energize his party’s base, he will suffer the same fate as McCain, a clear defeat.
McCain’s 2000 and 2008 bids for the Republican presidential nomination in many ways mirror the candidacy of Romney. In 2000 McCain was labeled the moderate or liberal candidate against George W. Bush. Some went so far to label him a RINO – Republican in Name Only.
In 2008, McCain had experience competing in early primary states and better understood the various constituencies. As such, he pivoted, campaigning as a conservative-ish choice for Republicans. But he still received backlash, especially by the most conservative primary voters who resisted the Arizona senator because they believed he was soft on issues of great importance to conservatives such as campaign finance reform. He suffered a dismal fourth-place finish in conservative Iowa but rebounded in New Hampshire and elsewhere.
McCain’s 2008 campaign pivot was not what won him the nomination though, He essentially prevailed through attrition, an attitude prevailed that McCain was the best of a lackluster lineup – the safe pick with the best chance of beating the Democrats. McCain perhaps also benefited from a GOP loyalty factor, that is, the belief that he paid his dues and was next in line (a perception that benefited the successful candidacies Richard Nixon, Ronald Reagan, and George H.W. Bush).
Romney is still viewed as a RINO by many Republicans and is not popular among Tea Party activists. In fact, South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley prompted blowback from Tea Partiers in her state because she….
Read more from Brian Calle, California Political Review.