Republican party grassroots voters have spent the past four years looking for a candidate who shares their passions and predilections and instead opted to pick a winner.
Instead of embracing a zealot who has an unflinching commitment to the core tenets of the conservative creed it appears they have decided to back the contender with the best chances of evicting Barack Obama.
Mitt Romney does not have the rock-solid social conservative credentials of Rick Santorum or the fervour for right-of-centre policy innovations which lights up the eyes of Newt Gingrich.
But the latest poll suggests he would beat Obama by two points, in contrast with Santorum who would lose by 11 and Gingrich who would be thrashed by 12.
Romney now enjoys an 11-point lead over his Republican rivals in the conservative bastion of South Carolina and one poll puts him at +26 in Florida. Unless Romney is photographed shooting kittens while wearing JFK’s sunglasses with a copy of Das Kapital in his back-pocket it looks like the nomination is his.
Party supporters reckon what Romney lacks in conservative credentials he makes up for in electability. He is the man most likely to give Obama sleepless nights.
This strategy of picking the candidate best placed to frighten your enemy is one which left-wing Labour stalwart Dennis Skinner would applaud.
The “Beast of Bolsover” backed the elder Miliband brother, David, in 2010 over Ed, arguing: “The big question is who are the Tories afraid of? Who is the best candidate to stand up against Cameron at the despatch box?”
Labour’s electoral college placed Ed Miliband at the helm of the party. In the Brown Government he was a pugnacious performer in television interviews and his readiness to take on his brother for the leadership cemented his reputation as a conviction politician willing to fight anyone in the battle of ideas.
But does he pass the test of performing better than the alternative leaders opposite the prime minister at noon on a Wednesday? This strange fusion of Oxford Union theatrics and celebrity cage-fighting is not where he thrives.
His left-wing vision excited his party’s electoral college just as Republicans were enamoured of the right-wing rhetoric of Herman Cain, Gingrich and a jalopy-full of unlikely presidential aspirants.
The Labour leader is no clown but he urgently needs to show there is a serious chance of him winning the keys to No 10 in 2015. Otherwise, the party will look around for a left-of-centre answer to Romney; someone who may not set their pulses racing but could convince the voters of Middle England to go red.
A Thursday Column.
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