While I was traveling last week, I missed the spat that erupted between the Romney and Palin camps. Steve Kornacki reviews Romney’s track record competing against different women over the years, and he reasonably concludes that Romney comes off looking like a heel whenever he competes against a woman for political office. That seems fair enough, but what seems to have been lost in the discussion is that Romney defeated all of his women opponents. It is quite a leap from saying “Romney treats women opponents badly and wins every time” to saying “Romney cannot possibly defeat Palin,” but somehow Andrew gets there.
Of course, Kornacki acknowledges that Romney is undefeated against women, but thinks that the way that Romney defeated all of his rivals in the past could cost him in a presidential campaign. It could be that Romney treats Palin roughly and ends up looking so bad that he becomes radioactive to a huge majority of women voters in the fall, but what Romney’s record tells me is that he has no scruples about doing whatever is necessary to win a nomination or an election. There also seems to be the suggestion that it is Romney who is at a disadvantage in any intra-Republican contest in which gender becomes a significant issue. That is an odd thing to assume. Palin’s “Mama Grizzly” routine works well enough when the perceived attackers are coming from outside the GOP, but my guess is that it will fall flat and will come across as mere whining when she uses it to fend off Republican rivals.
Do we really think that most Republican primary voters are more likely to nominate a woman for President than Democratic voters were two years ago? Do we really think that Republicans would prefer the less qualified candidate because she is a woman? Wouldn’t many Republicans want Romney to succeed to prove that the GOP is not dominated by religious conservatives who will not support a Mormon candidate Wouldn’t that impulse to show religious tolerance overwhelm any impulse to promote Palin beyond her ability just to get credit for nominating the first woman nominee? If the 2012 nomination contest comes down to a head-to-head fight between Romney and Palin, there appears to be every reason to think that Romney prevails. Whether he emerges from that contest so sullied by his own tactics that he cannot win a general election is a very different question.