Ron Paul and Rick Santorum Are the Only True Conservatives in the 2012 Election

A recent poll has President Obama enjoying a six point lead over GOP rival Mitt Romney if the presidential election were held today.

Obama has opened up his lead, which can be attributed to the recent encouraging news on the economy. However, the lead can also, in part, be explained by the almost uniquely dysfunctional GOP candidate field this election cycle.

2012 should be a perfect storm for American conservatives. Tea Party activism of the last few years has established something of a conservative grassroot resurgence, Obama’s presidency has been fraught with controversial legislation, and recent polling data suggests that conservatism remains the dominant political ideology in the U.S. Up until the GOP nomination race started, it seemed that the nominees would have to reflect the Tea Party rhetoric of limited government and fiscal responsibility in order to be in serious contention. Yet, this appears to not be the case.

There is of course one candidate who has a track record of matching the Tea Party rhetoric, Ron Paul. On fiscal issues, Ron Paul’s conservative credentials are unmatched by any of the other candidates. The fact that Ron Paul is not performing well is an indication of how much foreign policy matters to those who happen to be enthusiastic advocates of spending cuts and free market economics.

Like Ron Paul, Rick Santorum seems to be in line with recent conservative rhetoric. Indeed, Santorum is perhaps more in touch with the majority of conservatives, as he advocates for the interventionist foreign policy Ron Paul explicitly rejects.

Why Newt Gingrich is enjoying such success, then, is a mystery. Gingrich’s ideological background is hard to track and his conservative credentials are shaky at best. On top of his dubious ideological credentials, Gingrich has a personal life that one might think social conservatives would scorn. Gingrich might have the populism that Tea Party advocates are drawn to, but he is morally and intellectually bankrupt.

Romney has none of the Tea Party credentials, which Paul and Santorum can boast. Romney has changed his positions on important social issues such as abortion, supported the first round of stimulus bills, and supported a healthcare system with striking similarities to Obama’s controversial healthcare legislation. None of these come close to the brand of conservatism that has emerged over the last four years.

Yet, Romney does have one major advantage over the other three candidates: He is electable. Despite the grassroots activism and a call for the return of fiscal conservatism, conservatives look like they are willing to sacrifice principles and ideology in order to remove Obama from the White House. That Romney is the front-runner is testament to where conservatives’ values really lie.

One has to wonder how conservatives let it come to this. While Romney will probably end up as the GOP nominee, it is unlikely that he can defeat Obama. Romney will not be able to debate Obama on healthcare or foreign policy with any credibility. On the economy, Romney will struggle to propose any solutions which are noticeably different from Obama’s, or different enough for moderates to vote Republican.

The 2012 race has shown that many conservatives will put party over principle, a development that will no doubt please the President. 

Photo Credit: Taoty

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Matthew Feeney

Anglo-American currently working as Assistant Editor of Reason 24/7 at Reason.com. Before coming to DC I worked in London at the Institute of Economic Affairs and at the headquarters of the Liberal Democrats. I write mostly on economics, civil liberties, and foreign affairs.

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