I was reading Chuck Todd’s Hotline otherwise insightful piece on Rudy’s opportunities and challenges in the Republican primaries, when I ran across this litttle nugget:
For Romney, this move has caused all sorts of grief because he’s had to deal with Massachusetts-style flip-flopping charges. It’s one thing to evolve ideologically from, say, a 1994 Senate race, but the current issue of the Weekly Standard detailing Romney’s “conversion” on abortion since 2002 seems like a bit too quick of a move for some to take as genuine. Indeed, he’s taking hits from Republican contenders both to the right and left of him; former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee and Kansas Sen. Sam Brownback publicly question this allegedly campaign-inspired conversion, while McCain’s friends quickly play up the convictions contrast.
If Romney can survive this squeeze over the next six months without enduring too many blows to his candidacy, then it’s possible he could upset McCain. In person, Romney may be the single most talented pure politician of either party right now. In fact, some Democrats worry privately more about Romney than McCain, because they fear he is a Republican Bill Clinton — that he’s impossible to pigeon-hole ideologically.
But the Standard piece, coupled with doubts already brewing about Romney, could simply be too much to overcome.
What? Is Todd serious that a Weekly Standard piece could be the thing that pushes the Romney campaign in to oblivion? Look, I know that beltway conservative activists are important and all, but let’s face the facts: If these guys were the power brokers that many seem to think they are, then the Republican party would be fundamentally different than it is.
Elections are won by appealling to millions upon millions of people, including concerned citizens who’ve never heard of the Standard (as great as that magazine is) or even the National Review (full disclosure, I am a contributor to NRO’s higher education blog, Phi Beta Cons). With the amount of funds that Governor Romney has raised and will raise, he will soon be able to take his message directly to the people–without going through even the conservative media filter. That’s one of the reasons why money matters.
I’m not saying that elite conservative “buzz” isn’t important. It is. But its presence or absence is not dispositive to a candidate’s chances (in fact, the primary road is littered with the wrecks of campaigns that buzzed their way straight into oblivion.) The voters ultimately have their say, and Mitt Romney will have his chance to make a direct appeal.