You wouldn’t know this from listening to some Republicans’ lamentations. It sounds pretty strange when the former House speaker (Mr. Gingrich), the former No. 3 in the Senate Republican leadership (Mr. Santorum), a past chairman of the Republican Governors Association (Mr. Perry), and a former vice-presidential chief of staff (William Kristol) and others warn against letting “the establishment” choose the Republican nominee. If there is a “GOP establishment,” they are surely part of it.
More to the point, a small membership committee does not govern the process. No group of power brokers can pressure others into uniting behind one candidate. Millions of primary voters and caucus-goers will select the GOP’s nominee. That’s good enough for most of us.
There’s a lesson for the front-runner, Mr. Romney, in Mr. Gingrich’s complaint that negative ads in Iowa damaged his candidacy there. Because cable TV, the plethora of debates and the Internet have made the entire process so remarkably accessible to all the country, Mr. Gingrich’s South Carolina support also dropped 25 points in December, according to the CNN/TIME/OCR poll, as Palmetto State voters reacted to the issue without even seeing the ads. If Mr. Romney emerges as the nominee, he could suffer the same damage when the Obama campaign runs negative ads attacking his leadership of Bain Capital, as it surely would.
His GOP rivals are already doing so. Most Republicans will likely ignore much of the criticism over Bain because they generally approve of successful businessmen. That’s not going to be the case in the general election. Mr. Romney can help himself enormously if he uses the weeks ahead to forcefully confront this issue. His words in South Carolina and Florida will be heard by tens of millions of Americans.