The withdrawal of Rick Santorum from the race to be the Republican presidential nominee came when I was cut off from the world in deepest Yorkshire. When my dad met me from the train, it was the first thing he told me (you can decide what that says about both of us). Ever since, I’ve been trying to decide whether the news is good or bad.
The good news is that America’s next president will not be an illiberal, barmy tea-partier. If you look at the political seen in the US, there was every chance he could have been. The bad news is that Santorum’s exit makes Mitt Romney the nominee. And that’s a problem because he’s almost credible.
Romney’s economics were once sound and his history as a moderate may persuade some Democratic voters, disillusioned with Barack Obama, to change their allegiances. As Governor of Massachusetts, Romney implemented a very sensible plan which looks a lot like ‘Obama-care’ – the President’s now-demonised health insurance initiative. Yet the man who was once so moderate has been pushed to the right by his own party during the nomination race. The question now is: will he tack back to the centre ground, or continue to campaign for tea-party votes?
In normal political circumstances, it is always the middle which decides who wins and who loses an election. But the American political landscape is far from normal. The Republican party has become more and more dominated by its ultra-conservative wing, while a once promising Democrat in the White House has failed to set the country alight with jobs and growth. Therefore, we may see Romney become even more right-wing in order to make sure he gets the votes he should anyway. That does not bode well for America’s future.
Personally, I can only hope that swing voters have been put off by Romney’s pandering to some pretty scary people. Another glimmer of hope comes in the crude form of money: Obama has more of it. That gives his campaign an helpful advantage – especially as this time around, his image will be harder to sell.
Sell it he must. Romney may (or may not) be a moderate, but he is no liberal. He has already rallied against such things as medical care for the elderly and abortion, which raise not a peep in European countries. Maybe that sentence is telling – I want the American public to be more like me.