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The Tea Party and Republican Elite Role Reversal

Luckily, RealClearPolitics has republished a portion of Ben Domenech’s very interesting observations from his morning newsletter, the Transom:

For the past several weeks, Mitt Romney has been surrounded by critics from the DC-Manhattan elite who’ve denounced him for a lackluster, unfocused campaign, teeing off on Team Romney in the wake of the 47 percent comments for a number of issues—but mostly, in my read, from failing to take their advice. Romney’s defenders, meanwhile, have been many of the same individuals who spent the primary season torching him in effigy as the encapsulation of everything they hate about the Republican ruling class. For months the elites bashed the base for failing to suck it up and see the big picture, to line up for Romney and come on in for the big win. But they got their wish!

The tea party movement—once again proving its pragmatism once the general election season rolls around—lined up in the immediate aftermath of the Paul Ryan pick and has proven they can grow up. Professional concern troll David Frum, who spent most of the primary season telling liberals why conservatives were never going to suck it up and go for Romney, now seems very concerned that they have.  Michelle Malkin, who could be taking the wood to Romney on a daily basis for his infidelity to the immigration hardline, has morphed into a loyal soldier while Peggy Noonan is calling for Romney to bring in the 82-year-old Jim Baker to rescue his campaign (yes, really). Ann Romney seems a bit perturbed about this.

Too true. Domenech goes on to identify that he believes “Bush-era” foreign policy hands are voicing their discontent, anticipating that Romney is more concerned about domestic policy than their pet issues. I’m not so sure of that, but I am sure I’ve noticed the role reversal between the Tea Party and the elites.

It has been a curious thing since the Tea Party movement got its feet wet. That movement made lots of sound and fury. They won a few primary races. But they never threatened to break or split the GOP. The Tea Party wanted only to strengthen the GOP and strengthen the hand of conservatives within it. It was a tame movement born in and for the Republican party.

Why should this surprise David Frum or others? Every Tea Party person I spoke to in the Northeast was absolutely aware of Scott Brown’s “squishiness”, but they were totally committed to his victory, because they hated Obamacare. Similarly, now the Malkins of the world are committed to a Romney victory.

But Domenech goes on to argue that really it is the center-right elite, not the Tea Party who own the Romney candidacy, come what may.

Like it or not, the money and opinion elites on the center-right own Romney’s failure from the perspective of the base—they need him to win. And the reality is that if Romney loses, it will have little if anything to do with Paul Ryan’s big ideas, tactical choices, or elite misgivings—and far more to do with the simple fact that Romney is still disliked by most voters.

This is almost right.

The Michelle Malkins of the world really can disown Romney the moment he loses (if he loses). The problem for Malkin is that conservatives really had no viable alternative, did they? Rick Santorum and Newt Gingrich hardly seem like world-beaters to me. Could they ever raise enough money? Could they ever rise above or counter-punch a media that is quite sympathetic to Obama? Those candidacies might have felt good for a certain portion of the right, until the votes got counted.

But the center right may not own this election the way Ben Domenech says (or wishes). They can cite the same things Domenech just cited: the missteps, the lack of strategy, and the general “unlikability” of Mitt Romney. “Sure, we wanted Romney,” David Frum and other could say,  “We had no better alternative, and neither did you. Romney just wasn’t a great campaigner. It runs in the family.”

Failure is an orphan, and if Romney loses (I’m not convinced he will lose), his failure will not be pinned on any other faction.

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