Well, Mitt Romney’s candidacy is over (but his political future may not be done). Not much more I can say that hasn’t been repeated across the blogosphere in the past 20 hours or so. I have to say it’s quite jarring to witness an overwhelming Romney win at my local caucus, and in the state of Colorado as a whole, and less than 48 hours later to see his campaign come to an end.
But the former Massachusetts governor’s withdrawal speech at CPAC only confirmed my confidence in him. The speech was full of class and grace and poise, but also resounded on the pre-eminent theme of victory in the GWOT. Though initially disappointed to see the result of Romney’s Super Tuesday performance, hopefully we will look back in months to come and probably agree with these observations made by Colorado Republican leaders, who have shifted allegiances quickly to frontrunner Sen. John McCain:
In interviews with former Colorado Gov. Bill Owens, University of Colorado president Hank Brown, state Rep. Victor Mitchell of Castle Rock, Colorado Springs Rep. Doug Lam born and U.S. Sen. Wayne Allard, as well as Utah Sen. Orrin Hatch, a clear theme emerged: By dropping out of the race now, Romney allows time for Republicans to unite behind McCain.
“There will be time for Republican wounds to heal,” Allard said.
Iraq will unify Republican voters, the senator from Loveland said. But McCain also needs to cultivate support [in] the West, Allard said.
We can either get in the game and exert our conservative influence or sit on the sidelines and let the other team win. Politics is almost never a choice between the best and the worst. The time to fight for one presidential candidate over another within the Republican Party is over now, for all intents and purposes. (Sorry, Steven, do the math. And Michael at Best Destiny has gritted his teeth to institute a no-McCain-bashing policy.) Romney is right: Victory matters too much.
Meanwhile, McCain’s speech at CPAC was a good first step toward healing the rift with much of the conservative base. Yes, just a first step. McCain’s rhetoric needs more action to back it. I plan to vote for him in November, and to advocate the Arizona Senator over his Democratic opponents. But the more he does to woo conservatives along the way, the more he will energize the party’s base and help Republican candidates down-ticket. We should demand more tangible proof to back up the words McCain spoke yesterday.
Let’s face it, though. Some in our coalition may end up unable to hold their noses and vote for McCain. I respect where they’re coming from, and will try to persuade them to choose more prudently. Thanks to Romney’s noble withdrawal, we have more time to work on persuasion, such as today’s Townhall column by John Hawkins. (Though, as noted above, the ball is primarily in McCain’s court to make that persuasion work.)
So these questions remain: What will Mike Huckabee – now increasingly a Presidential primary sideshow – tell CPAC on Saturday? Will he jeopardize his slipping chances to be McCain’s running mate, or is he persuaded that the only way he gets there is by forcing McCain’s hand with a larger slew of Southern delegates? And who will notice when Ron Paul is out of the race?