- iReport pundits say Romney simply fails to inspire
- Money, beliefs and attitude all factors
- Disenchanted base could spell trouble if he gets the nod
Mitt Romney just can't seem to get conservatives to come to the altar and say "I do."
It's something that looms large in the minds of political junkies and concerned conservatives everywhere: Despite a sizable financial advantage over his rivals and a top-notch ground game, Romney is still struggling to unite the warring factions of the GOP and secure the nod from his party.
CNN tapped the pool of passionate pundits and politics-watchers on iReport and asked for their take on Romney's as-yet-unsuccessful efforts to sew up the presidential nomination.
GOP party honchos, not conservatives, chose him: Conservative voter Vernon Hill of Montread City, North Carolina, echoes other disaffected Republicans in his area when he says that Romney's troubles are "very simple: He was forced upon us by the GOP establishment, and we have disagreed with this," he said.
"We've had enough. We want someone that won't run away, but will stand their ground through whatever happens. Romney has failed to impress us," he said.
Independent voter Matt Ziemeski of Redding, California, was less charitable with his word choice, dubbing Romney the leader of "The Four Stooges" in the wake of Super Tuesday.
"When Santorum or Paul or Gingrich gets on a roll with an issue you can easily see their supporters fired up and defending their candidate and those beliefs very strongly." Romney, he says, inspires no such passion.
The flip-flop factor: The most common criticism of Romney among iReporters should sound familiar: His shifting stances and constant triangulation on a raft of red-meat issues.
Left-leaning iReporter Egberto Willies of Kingwood, Texas, summed up Romney's struggle as part of what he sees as a rightward shift in policy the GOP has undergone in recent years.
"Most of the sensible candidates, who would have likely beat President Obama because of our economic state, felt they could not get through the primaries without compromising their true values," he said, citing the failed campaign of Jon Hunstman as an example.
"Romney was willing to compromise his true values and I think that will make him unelectable ever again at any level, given a solid opponent of any ideological persuasion."
He can't get his base fired up: Then there's the matter of an enthusiasm gap with Romney that haunts the GOP like Banquo's ghost.
Two conservative iReporters weighed in after Super Tuesday to say that they simply didn't vote in their states' primaries -- not because they're unengaged citizens, but because the prospect of Romney as the inevitable nominee of their party made the process wholly unappealing.
Katy Brown of Kent, Ohio, was frank: "It sucks, honestly."
She's not planning to vote for Obama, but none of the other candidates she's researched inspire her in the least. "There's not a person on the ballot, Democratic or Republican, that I think deserves to be president," she said.
Right-leaning iReporter William Bernstein had similar reservations, and a bigger conundrum: In Virginia, only Romney and Ron Paul were on the GOP ballot. He wanted to know what Romney was going to do to "fix the economy and lower gas prices," and wasn't impressed by what he heard.
His Mormon faith: Independent moderate Mark Ivy of Farmersburg, Indiana, points to a general unfamiliarity with Romney's Mormon faith as a factor in the candidate's struggle to connect with evangelical and religious Republicans. "One would think, 52 years after President John F. Kennedy gave his famous speech to allay the worries of voters about his religion, that the issue would not be a part of the current political dialogue," he said.
"Unfortunately, religion is playing a decisive role during the Republican presidential nominating process. ... Most of these voters tend to be white and over age 50, and traditionally vote based on moral and religious principle."
But he's also quick to point out that "The general election is altogether different. ... We see the same on the Democrat side in a contested primary, where those more to the left choose the nominee, but fall in line for the general election."
Can't pass the six-pack litmus test: Finally, there's the matter of Romney's patrician demeanor, his tenure as CEO of Bain Capital, and what iReporter Diana O. Potter called the "rarefied atmosphere of wealth and privilege," he's enjoyed.
Independent iReporter Mary Helen Yarborough of Mount Pleasant, South Carolina, who is currently volunteering for Newt Gingrich's campaign, put it differently: "Nobody loves Romney."
Yarborough says that Romney's recent swing through southern states, where he espoused a love of grits and the word "y'all" is a prime example of his alleged insincerity. She said this kind of talk only makes him seem that much more disconnected from average voters, by treating them with "mocking that presumes Southerners as foreign or strange."
Her advice for Romney? Grab a near beer, "be polite, and act like you've visited somewhere besides Boston."