Nate Silver suggested in a column yesterday that the GOP establishment might not be as firmly in Mitt Romney’s camp as the anti-Mitt, anti-establishment crowd would like voters to think. According to Silver, endorsements from party officials are one measure of the elite appetite for a candidate — and, while Mitt Romney has more endorsements than any of his competitors, he has far fewer than historical precedent suggests he should have by this point in the primary. Silver postulates that some officials have hesitated to endorse because the possibility that another candidate will enter the race is always tantalizingly proffered by one pundit or another.
Andrea Mitchell recently made a comment that suggests Silver might be right that the GOP establishment is actually relatively cool toward Romney:
“I talked to a top Romney adviser tonight who said, ‘Look, if Mitt Romney can not win here in Florida then we’re going to have to try to reinvent the smoke-filled room which has been democratized by all these primaries. And we’re going to have try to come with someone as an alternative to Newt Gingrich who could be Jeb Bush, Mitch Daniels, someone.’ Because there is such a desperation by the so-called party elites, but that’s exactly what Gingrich is playing against.”
The other half of this theory is just as important, though: Just because “party elites” aren’t so keen on Romney doesn’t mean they aren’t still opposed to Gingrich. Indeed, Mitchell’s quote — if it is, in fact, an accurate reflection of the comments of a Romney adviser with insider information — suggests party leaders are most concerned to stop Gingrich.
It’s easy to become caught up in theories about the establishment, but, at some point, it’s helpful to remember the voters really are the ones to decide — and have a responsibility to decide for themselves. Better to focus on picking the best candidate than to worry about whether that candidate has been endorsed by the establishment and what that might say about the candidate’s hidden agenda. A voter voting against the establishment just for the sake of voting against the establishment is like the gal who does the opposite of whatever her mother tells her — even if she would have done exactly what her mom suggested had her mom not suggested it. In other words, to emulate Romney’s style of speaking, rebellion for the sake of rebellion only hurts the rebel rebelling.