The Republicans' 'working digits' candidate

February 14, 2012

The chatter among Republicans about a deadlocked, or brokered, convention grows but don’t be fooled: barring a miracle, the GOP nominee will be Mitt Romney.

There’s no guarantee Romney will get the necessary votes for the first convention ballot through actual primary voting. But there is a pretty sure bet that party officials, invested in Romney up to their eyeballs, will pull out all the stops to make that happen.

You’ve been seeing it happening since Iowa. Remember Matt Strawn, the state GOP chairman? He’s the guy who insisted that though there were missing ballots and pissed off affidavit-signing Republican election judges, Romney had beaten Santorum by eight votes. Then, after Romney got the unwarranted attention and momentum from that fake win, it turned out Rick Santorum had actually won by 34 votes. But Strawn refused to support the new vote count.

Craig Robinson, a former Iowa GOP official, took Strawn to task: “His unwillingness to stand behind the certified results of the caucuses not only reeks of a bias toward Romney, but it has also (caused) irreparable harm to the institution of the caucuses themselves.”

Two weeks ago, Strawn resigned.

But the Romney bias keeps coming up. Look at Maine, where Congressman Ron Paul was poised to win those caucuses -- a victory that would have caused some serious damage to Romney’s campaign after Rick Santorum’s three-state victory just days before.

In Maine, GOP state chairman Charlie Webster declared Romney a winner before all the votes were counted. In fact, Webster made a point of canceling the Washington County caucus -- where Paul was going to win by a substantial margin -- because of snow. Because, you know, snow can really stop the show in Maine.

“I wish all the caucus had met today, because I was disappointed,” Paul told his supporters on Maine’s caucus night after Webster announced his decision. “There was one caucus that I think we would have done very, very well. But we won. We lost by, I guess, almost 200 votes, 190 votes. It’s almost like we could call it a tie.”

Of course, however much Paul needs to win, it’s ultimately irrelevant to his crusade, which is to influence rather than outright win the Republican nomination.

Bur for Romney -- who has yet to win a single primary with more than 50 percent of the vote -- Maine was crucial.

Why is the GOP establishment doing so much heavy lifting for Romney? Look at the other candidates. The Republican establishment detests Newt Gingrich, loathes Ron Paul and, frankly, doesn’t quite trust Santorum. It’s not that Santorum won’t play ball -- of course he will. But if Santorum ends up with the nomination, it’ll be from his own honest effort and he’ll owe the party very little.

But Romney -- who’s been running for president since he was governor of Massachusetts -- is willing to do anything to become president.

So how confident is the party that Romney will bend over? Well, just listen to Grover Norquist, head of Americans for Tax Reform, the anti-tax guru who’s got everybody in the Republican party terrified of revenue.

“All we have to do is replace Obama. ...  We are not auditioning for fearless leader,” he said at last week's conservative confab, the CPAC conference. “We don't need a president to tell us in what direction to go. We know what direction to go ... We just need a president to sign this stuff. We don't need someone to think it up or design it. The leadership now for the modern conservative movement for the next 20 years will be coming out of the House and the Senate. Pick a Republican with enough working digits to handle a pen to become president of the United States ... His job is to be captain of the team, to sign the legislation that has already been prepared.”

In other words, pick the guy who wants to be president so bad, the one the GOP establishment can maneuver like a puppet. The one that John Boehner and Congressional Republicans can lead by a nose.

Does that sound like Gingrich, Paul or Santorum? Uh uh. Not on your life.

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