Follow the Leader

Jamelle Bouie

Supporters of former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney cheer as he takes the stage.

The most important thing about conservative activist Erick Erickson’s latest lament for the Republican presidential field isn’t his declaration that he would endorse the “sweet meteor of death” over any of the current candidates. It’s that, in the same segment, he resigned himself to supporting the eventual nominee in the general election.

Put another way, liberals who expect conservatives to stay home are fooling themselves. Despite low turnout in the Republican presidential primaries and the overall lack of enthusiasm for Mitt Romney—the GOP’s likely nominee—the simple fact is that when the general election comes, Republicans will energize themselves into voting for the party’s choice. You can already see it, as prominent conservative figures begin to line up behind Romney’s candidacy.

Put another way, John Kerry wasn’t a particularly thrilling nominee, but liberals were so angry with the Bush administration that they were willing to turn out in large numbers to vote for the Massachusetts senator—and more important—against George W. Bush. In all likelihood, we’ll have a similar situation in November. Conservatives might not like or trust Mitt Romney, but when forced to choose between someone who is with them 90 percent of the time—and a Democratic president they hate—they’ll enthusiastically go for the former (and work to bend him in their direction).