As the Presidential campaign rolls through the dog days of summer, nominee-to-be Mitt Romney has some work to do en route to the Convention and hopefully a general election victory in the fall. It’s not just about connecting with women or evangelicals, but with the Tea Party. Just ask David Dewhurst what happens to wealthy GOP candidates who ignore the conservative grassroots. It is true that Romney has continued to fare better with self identified Tea Party supporters of late, but there remains an enthusiasm gap between this potent political force and the new head of the GOP.
Why is no mystery. Many Tea Party members or those of a similar mindset don’t have confidence that Romney will be aggressive enough in making systemic reforms to address the massive challenges facing the economy, foremost among them the size and scope of government.
Romney needs to win over the Tea Party and he won’t do it by just being the Obama alternative. He has to make Tea Party leaders want to get out and walk districts for his campaign. That kind of ground operation will be needed to counter the unions and progressive interest groups who will pull out all the stops to reelect President Obama.
To do this Romney can’t try to run away from who he is – a wealthy, successful businessman and a legacy member of a political family. He has to make that work for him. It won’t be lost on the Tea Party that the same Democrats who revere the Kennedys, perhaps the most morally corrupt and controversial political dynasty in American history, are spending millions of dollars trying to convince people that the Romneys are out of touch.
It’s un-American to believe that success makes you out of touch. But appearing to not know who you are does. Romney needs to have a conversation with voters about American ideas, and how the American dream has been impacted by government encroachment. He needs to do it state by state and town by town – and symbolically house by house.
The President is a talker. If Romney wants to win over the Tea Party, he needs to be seen as a listener.
Romney also needs to focus on his personal values. This isn’t about abortion, but the way he’s lived his life, ran his business, worked at his marriage, treated his friends, raised his family and yes, supported his faith. The Romneys represent a set of personal, family values that is appealing to many in the Tea Party movement if for no other reason than Tea Party members want a president they can personally respect. Many tea partiers many not have agreed with Bush’s fiscal policy, but the vast majority have warm feelings for a president they considered to be a decent and honorable man.
Lastly, and perhaps more importantly, Romney has to be willing to lay out a plan for reform than reduces the burden of government on our families and businesses. This plan must include tax and spending cuts. You can’t spend yourself out of a fiscal crisis and no amount of tax hikes on the rich can close the current budget deficit. Romney needs to make this clear and link how less government equals more jobs for Americans.
Here’s the deal though. It is understandable that there will be a segment of the Tea Party population that can’t get energized about Romney. Maybe they’re not giving him a chance. Maybe he’s not performing the way they would like. In any case, it’s ok. There’s more to November than the presidential election. Faced with another four years of a radical progressive policy in the White House, and bankrupt local and state governments we all must do our part. We have no excuse not to be engaged in the process at the local level, supporting other campaigns.
At the end of the day, it’s certainly hard to argue that Mitt Romney won’t move the country in a rightward direction fiscally. It’s impossible to credibly believe that staying home will help the country. Go door to door for your favorite state legislator, mayoral candidate, US Senate candidate, Congressman, dogcatcher and help create reform from the bottom up. Oh and by the way be prepared to if nothing else, pull the lever for Romney too while you’re at it.