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Clarence Page / Politics

A GOP Civil War Simmers

A civil war is brewing within the Republican Party. It's a fight between two familiar factions: the party establishment vs. the right-wingers.

Think back to the Anybody-But-Mitt movement that threw a succession of conservative front-runners in front of moderate-turned-conservative Mitt Romney's long march to the nomination, and you will have a pretty good idea of what factional divide I'm talking about.

Conventional wisdom on the right has long held that victory over President Barack Obama should be easy, especially with the unemployment rate topping 8 percent. The right was energized; the left was more disenchanted than Chicago Cub fans in October.

Yet polls right up to the conventions mostly showed Obama virtually tied or slightly ahead of Romney and giving a widening edge to Obama ever since, especially in the decisive battleground states.

While the Democratic National Convention is remembered for a speech by former President Bill Clinton that sold Obama's presidency better than Obama usually does, the Republicans are remembered mostly for Clinton Eastwood's conversation with an empty chair.

And that was before a series of unforced errors by Romney and his campaign. There was his too-hasty statement during the attack on our Libyan embassy attack that left U.S. Amb. Christopher Stevens and three other Americans dead. There was a Politico story reporting strife within the campaign. As the campaign announced a reboot, a video surfaced in which Romney, talking to wealthy donors in Boca Raton, appeared to write off 47 percent of the voters as moochers who would never vote for him anyway.

Suddenly, conservative commentators were publicly entertaining what to them had been almost unthinkable: What if Romney loses?

Google up the words "Republican civil war" and you may quickly come up, as I did, with a list of links to commentaries about what will happen within the Grand Old Party if Romney loses.

Factional infighting often follows losing campaigns. In Romney's case, the rounds of recrimination and finger pointing are quite premature, since he still theoretically could win. This would require several tossup states now leaning toward Obama to shift direction, but miracles happen in politics.

If Romney does lose, judging by the fury already is erupting from his conservative critics, I foresee the factions exchanging fusillades of "I told you so."

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(c) 2012 CLARENCE PAGE DISTRIBUTED BY TRIBUNE MEDIA SERVICES, INC.



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