I attended Mitt Romney's fine campaign-launch event today, and am still putting together a write-up about it, but I want to jump in and scream yet again that any discussion you see or hear about Mitt Romney's chances to win the GOP nomination -- no matter how intelligent and insightful that discussion may be -- that doesn't include the word "abortion" is doomed analysis.
Mitt Romney could have vetoed health-care reform, rather than passed it, and he would still have no freakin' chance in hell with I'd say at least a third of GOP primary voters, because pretty much right up to the day he officially launched his Presidential campaign in January 2007 he was pro-choice.
I'm talking about 1/3 of the vote off the table, no chance of consideration. Much of the remainder is still an uphill battle for him because of the issue.
Please remember: when John McCain was floating Joe Lieberman and Tom Ridge as potential running-mates, he was being told (as I've heard it) that if he nominated a pro-choice VP, entire state delegations would literally walk out of the convention.
Romney would have very little chance to win the Iowa caucuses, or the South Carolina primary, whether or not health care reform had become an issue in this cycle. Pretty much the entire South, in fact, is out of play for him. His people have seemed to believe, ever since the end of the '08 campaign, that he can theoretically win Florida, Texas, and Georgia in the right conditions, but I think that's a pipe dream.
(I wasn't in Texas for it, but my understanding from outside was pretty much that Kay Bailey Hutchison went from most popular Republican in Texas to humiliation in the gubernatorial primary, primarily because Rick Perry pounded her for not being a strict enough pro-lifer -- and she's a 7% NARAL rating.)
You may be thinking to yourself: but I don't hear anybody talking about abortion as an issue in this cycle....
To which I say: A) you hang with the wrong crowd; B) you haven't been paying attention to what candidates like Pawlenty, Huntsman, Bachmann, Cain, Santorum, and others have been saying on the stump; and C) just wait.
Now, it's certainly possible that Romney can win the nomination despite this problem. He would need to A) sweep every state with below-national-average evangelical population, and B) have the Republican establishment get behind him, to help convince social conservatives that he's really OK. That's pretty much how McCain did it, although his problem was somewhat less severe (he's been really, really solidly pro-life for a long time - his problem is that many evangelical leaders believe McCain is an atheist) and his war heroism was extremely valuable.
So far, there is scant evidence that part B is happening for Romney -- but it certainly could, if it starts to look like the alternative is, say, Michelle Bachmann.
In any event, other folks may very well dispute me on any of the details, or come to different conclusions. But if they're not discussing abortion at all in their analysis, don't put much faith in it.