The limits of the ‘Not Mitt Romney’ campaign

It makes sense for conservative critics of Mitt Romney’s campaign to get organized, but this initiative needs some work.

A coalition of conservatives have launched a campaign against Republican front-runner Mitt Romney’s candidacy to prevent him from becoming the GOP nominee next year.

The group’s website, NotMittRomney.com, already features a web ad against the former Massachusetts governor — and they plan more “aggressive” steps in the coming months.

The website offers this dire prediction if Romney were to become the Republican choice to face President Barack Obama in 2012 — though most members of the group say they would support Romney against Obama if it came to that.

Organizers, in explaining the purpose of the “Not Mitt Romney” campaign, argue that because of the candidate’s lack of core principles, Republicans will “have a White House that believes in little” if Romney “some how [sic] squeaks it out.” They added that a Romney nomination will produce a Republican Party “split at the seems [sic].”

The campaign features some fairly prominent right-wing voices, including GOP activists, operatives, and media figures. The names that jump out include Pamela Geller, Roger Stone Jr Robert Stacy McCain, and Matt Mackowiak, led by a conservative public-relations professional Ali Akbar.

I can understand their dissatisfaction with the Republican frontrunner, and I can also understand their willingness to get organized in opposition to Romney. What makes less sense to me is the underlying strategy — Republican voters are going to nominate the party’s presidential candidate, and “Not Mitt Romney” won’t be on the ballot. If these right-wing players want to stop Romney from winning the GOP nod, they’re going to have pick an alternative.

Whether they like it or not, the party’s non-Romney wing is already huge — polls show the former Massachusetts governor struggling to get past the mid-20s nationwide, suggesting roughly three out of four Republican voters either already support someone else or remain undecided.

The trick is, Romney is in an eight-way contest, and he’s fully capable of winning the nomination despite having such weak party-wide support. The task for his GOP detractors, then, isn’t to point out his flaws, it’s to elect someone else. “Not Mitt Romney” isn’t, and can’t be, the goal; nominating one of his rivals is.

As Alex Pareene put it, “If the people behind ‘Not Mitt Romney’ actually cared about electing someone other than Mitt Romney, shouldn’t they actually be devoting their time and resources to campaigning for a non-Mitt Romney candidate? Because otherwise, all their campaign does is reinforce the message that while Mitt Romney is flawed, he has no credible competition.”