Even though the conventional wisdom right now is that Tim Pawlenty is too much of a snooze to really win the Republican nomination, I'm still putting my money on him. Being an iron butt goes a long way in Republican politics, for one thing, but the reason that he'll beat out the wild-eyed Bible thumpers and people you suspect tortured animals as children is that, believe it or not, people who still consider themselves moderate Republicans vote in presidential primaries. And they're going to be enough to kill off Palin, Gingrich or whatever other nutters have passed my mind. Pawlenty will win by being the last man standing. He's both not hated by more moderate Republicans and not hated by the fundies. If anyone has any suggestions on where I could bet on this, I would appreciate it because I like winning.
But what about Mitt Romney?!, you may ask. Well, maybe. But I wouldn't bet the house payment on him. First of all, while I doubt he tortured animals as a child, he is on record as a grown-up Fido abuser. He should call Michael Vick and ask him how well that works out for someone trying to stay in the public's good graces.
But more than that, Mitt Romney is a Mormon and a bunch of conservatives think he has liberal inclinations. That's going to kill him with the evangelicals. There's already a lack of trust for Mormons that Glenn Beck didn't do nearly enough to resolve. But I'm thinking the fears that he's a secret liberal are going to matter even more. First of all, Romney has flip-flopped on abortion, moving from pro-choice to anti-choice as soon as he wanted to be taken seriously for national office. This isn't, in and of itself, a problem. In fact, I'd point out that evangelical Christianity actually gives bonus points to converts to the heavy-duty misogyny cause. But if you convert, it had to look like a conversion, preferably with tears and speaking in tongues and stories of how you were lost but now you're found and all that other crap. This is what it looks like for Romney:
M. ROMNEY: Well, Ronald Reagan was also pro-choice and then became pro-life. And George Herbert Walker Bush was pro-choice and became pro-life. And they became pro-life as they took the responsibility of — of leading. And — and in that circumstance, they recognized that they…
MORGAN: How many times –
M. ROMNEY: — they did not — they could not simply sign up for — for the taking of unborn life.
He might as well say, "I don't give a fuck either way, but this is what I need to do to get elected. And you owe it to me, because you let other politicians get away with it." That doesn't really sell it, even to people who really want to believe. Not when they have alternatives like Pawlenty, who actually does seem like a member in good standing of the Christian right.
And then there's this whole exchange on gay rights:
MORGAN: Do you personally think homosexuality is a sin?
ROMNEY: Nice try, but I’m not going to get into –
MORGAN: That’s a valid question, isn’t it?
ROMNEY: It’s a valid question and my answer is nice try.
In fact, Romney is really adamant that one shouldn't govern based on religious dogma. Which I can't really admire, since like everything else the man stands for, it's completely self-serving. He's Mormon and so wants to wrap himself up in Kennedy's defense of his Catholicism in the 1960 election in order to make his Mormonism a non-issue. I mean, I agree with him that we shouldn't automatically assume someone's faith will dictate their governance, but I also think if his Mormonism worked in his favor with Republican voters, he'd be screaming about letting god decide our laws right along with them.
This kind of question-dodging might work on a lot of Republican primary voters, whose main motivating desire is to stick it to the liberals, and so whenever they see a politician get prickly with a journalist (and unless it's Fox, they're all assumed to be liberals), they usually like it. But with Romney, dodging the sin question is just going to reinforce existing concerns that he's not One of Them. And being One of Them is the number one most important thing to the Republican base. For the religious right, the fact that you personally believe anything is a sin is reason enough to want the government to get involved. Their entire reason for existing is to break down the difference between "what my personal religion teaches me" and "what should be the law of the land that everyone has to adhere to, even if they have drastically different religious beliefs than mine". Forget the "daughter test". The "Jesus test" has been a right wing staple for decades now.
Seriously. In our post-Weinergate era where we're letting it all hang out, I will admit I enjoy a spot of gambling on occasion. So if anyone has recs on where I can put some money on Pawlenty for the GOP nomination, I'd be much obliged.