Joe Scarborough revealed some establishment thinking on the way the Presidential race will play out on Morning Joe yesterday:
I yet to meet a single person in the Republican establishment that thinks Mitt Romney is going to win the general election this year.They won’t say it on TV because they’ve got to go on TV and they don’t want people writing them nasty emails. I obviously don’t care. But I have yet to meet anybody in the Republican establishment that worked for George W. Bush, that works in the Republican congress, that worked for Ronald Reagan that thinks Mitt Romney is going to win the general election.
Scarborough isn’t the first to note this sort of thinking among Republican bosses. Michael Medved wrote back in February that many Republicans had resigned themselves to an Obama re-election:
Even for Republicans who assume that any nominee would lose to Obama, it therefore makes sense to fear a Santorum catastrophe (like Goldwater’s devastating, across-the-board wipeout in ’64) more than a more conventional defeat for Romney (perhaps in the style of Bob Dole in ’96, when the GOP retained both houses of Congress).
However, “We’re Going to Go Out and Lose Respectably to Barack Obama” wouldn’t be a real winning message in the Republican Primary, so we’ve heard how Romney’s going to beat Barack Obama in the Fall. But is he? The pessimists have a lot of facts on their side.
First of all, Romney will struggle to unite the GOP because he’s opted for a campaign strategy of winning ugly, bombarding voters with millions of dollars in negative ads and negative robocalls. Many Romney supporters have complained about the negative tone of the campaign when most of the guilt for this lies at the doors of Romney and his Super PAC who have been the biggest perpetrators and they’re continuing to run negative to this day because that’s the only way Romney knows how to win.
Secondly, its very hard to imagine Romney winning the election because it’s very hard to imagine any Republican winning the election without carrying all three of the states of Ohio, Virginia, and Florida. Polls already show Romney trailing in all three states and Obama has barely begun his massive general election spending. Romney’s low favorable ratings make a comeback even more daunting.
If I were to hazard a guess at to how a Romney v. Obama race would turn out, it’d be reasonable to think the map would be quite similar to 2008 with Romney losing Missouri but picking up Indiana, New Hampshire, and Nebraska’s 2nd District. That would put Romney at 185 electoral votes. If we were to look at a best case scenario, Romney could win North Carolina and, through his western strength, snag Colorado and Nevada, and we might hope that Missouri, like Kentucky before it, has been transformed from a swing state to a Red State by Obama. That still leaves Romney at only 225 electoral votes. Even under this sunny scenario, Romney would still need to win both Ohio and Florida to defeat Obama.
Of course, publicly stating this could be seen as treasonous by many Republican leaders who think that Republican establishment favorite candidates are a lot like Tinker Bell. If you don’t believe in their chances, they’ll fade away in the Fall. However, this is reality that many of Romney’s own supporters know but refuse to publicly acknowledge.
Romney is a pick to lose by a reasonable margin in the hope that it won’t have down-ticket impact. This is part of the reason Rick Santorum soldiers on. He and his supporters disagree with the idea of conservatism being a losing proposition. They think that offering a clear contrast is the only hope of challenging the Obama machine and coming away with a win rather than another establishment candidate loss in 2012.