The Republican Party fears it might have accidentally destroyed its village in order to save it. Just after Mitt Romney gave his victory speech in Florida Tuesday night, Sarah Palin -- who fought with the McCain campaign in 2008 because she wanted to be meaner -- was on Fox News fretting that the $17 million spent on negative ads in the state had hurt Republicans for the general election. "From establishment pillars to Tea Party leaders, the emerging consensus is that the vituperative attacks in Florida went beyond the traditional back and forth, cresting with Gingrich’s robocall asserting that Romney had vetoed legislation denying Holocaust victims kosher food," Politico's Jonathan Martin writes. Romney "wanted to run as a pragmatic businessman looking out for the middle class, but he enters the general election painted, not unfairly, as a very rich man looking to preserve the policies that have benefitted him, often unfairly," New York's Jonathan Chait writes. And even though Romney survived Gingrich's attacks on his business record, conservatives worry he was so busy gloating over killing his opponent he forgot to offer any ideas.
Those of us who believed that a primary fight would toughen Mr. Romney up have little to show for it. Far from sharpening his proposals to reach out to a GOP electorate hungry for a candidate with a bold conservative agenda, Mr. Romney has limited his new toughness to increasingly negative attacks on Mr. Gingrich's character. It's beginning to make what we all assumed was a weakness look much more like arrogance.
Successful U.S. candidates for the White House have understood that their mission is larger than their own ambition. It's about a cause, about "we" not "I." If Mr. Romney really wants to unite his party and rally a new American majority, he needs a cause bigger than his business biography.