Check out NRO’s thoughtful and fair-minded editorial about the recent controversies over the Governor’s move to the right. I particularly liked this:
Conservatives should hope Romney’s campaign does not fizzle. For three decades, candidates who have moved to the right in Republican presidential primaries have been rewarded rather than punished. Conservative openness to converts has made it possible for moderate Republicans who found themselves moving rightward to prosper, and given ideologically malleable Republicans an incentive to adopt conservative positions. In both cases, the effect was to facilitate the country’s rightward move.
Conservatives should want to keep it that way. Thus, the gleeful pounding away at Romney’s changes from some on the right is counterproductive. Do any of these critics really wish that Romney had remained pro-choice? Pro-choicers didn’t object when Al Gore, Dick Gephardt, and Jesse Jackson moved their way on abortion — they welcomed the converts.
Pounding Romney for becoming more conservative is a political tactic–contrived by his opponents–that has been picked up and echoed by the MSM in their quest to take out the most viable conservative in the race. Paul Mirengoff at Powerline explains the dynamic:
The MSM has been trying to nominate a progressive/liberal/centrist/moderate/or maverick Republican presidential candidate since the days of Nelson Rockefeller — in other words, ever since the Republicans stopped doing it to themselves. The MSM hasn’t had much luck, though it made a decent run at it in 2000.
But 2008 (including 2007) may well be the MSM’s year. That’s because the two leading Republican contenders, McCain and Rudy Giuliani, arguably fit somewhere in the progressive/liberal/centrist/moderate/maverick continuum. At a minimum, both take liberal positions on several issues that many conservatives deem vital.
Right now, the MSM faces only one obvious obstacle — Mitt Romney. Of the major figures committed to running on the Republican side, only Romney takes the conservative position on all major issues.
This explains, I believe, the relentlessly negative coverage he’s received from the MSM. Usually, the MSM likes a horse race. Thus, it will tend to give every major candidate a honeymoon period during which he has the opportunity to build himself up before the media tears him down, if tearing him down is deemed politically appropriate. But Romney hasn’t had that opportunity. The Boston Globe started attacking him before he even got his “exploratory” campaign underway, and since that time much of the rest of the MSM has piled on. The MSM seems resolved to bring Romney down before he can get started. Presumably, its members think that Giuliani and McCain, who can be dealt with later, will provide a sufficient horse race.
Mirengoff is a conservative who lives in the real world–his eyes are not trained on the hills waiting for the Perfect Conservative to come riding down on his white horse. Instead, he looks at the actual candidates and weighs the alternatives:
But conservative Republicans should also think about what this race will look like if Romney falls by the wayside and no other strong, electable conservative enters. The choice will then be down to McCain and Giuliani. Nearly all of McCain’s important stands have been anti-conservative. That he’s getting any consideration from conservatives is due to the one big exception — his passionate support for the war in Iraq and the war on terror generally. But even this exception has an exception, namely his efforts to limit our ability to interrogate terrorist detainees. Iraq is an important front in the war on terror, but so are the interrogation rooms where we try to extract information that will enable us to track down other terrorists and prevent future 9/11′s. McCain has sided with the liberals on that front. McCain nonetheless may be the best choice, but as with Romney conservatives have “reason to wonder.”
The other option would be Giuliani. His liberalism on social issues like abortion, gay marriage, and guns is well known. Conservatives will also want to look at his reign in New York. Frog-marching perps and making examples out of squeegee men may have been just what New York needed 15-20 years ago. But was Giuliani a big government mayor or a small government mayor, and does it matter? It would be nice to figure this out while there’s still a viable candidate in the race who’s taking uniformly conservative positions.
But that’s precisely the opporutnity the MSM does not want conservative Republicans to have. So it holds its fire on Giuliani and McCain, and trains nearly all of its guns on Mitt.
It’s time for common sense to overcome chattering class mood swings (because that’s all we have here). The great bulk of the primary voting public will soon be introduced to Mitt Romney for the first time, and I believe they will like what they see.