The Weathervane’s Chief Strength as a Candidate?

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Mitt Romney aka the Weathervane has won, as expected, the DC, Maryland and Wisconsin primaries.  The Republican nomination isn’t over, but the fat lady is definitely approaching the microphone.  Now I had thought that the Weathervane has only one strength as a candidate: not Obama.  However, Stuart Rothenberg today hit upon another strength that I had not considered:

Despite all his conservative rhetoric — on taxes, government spending, traditional marriage, immigration, abortion and health care — conservatives aren’t buying it. They believe that Romney is simply pandering to them because he knows that is what he needs to do to lock up the Republican nomination.

Whether it is his multiple positions over the years on abortion, his support for an individual mandate in Massachusetts, his Mormon faith or simply his profile as a wealthy, impeccably dressed businessman, the most conservative Republican voters (many of whom are evangelicals) don’t believe that he is a passionate conservative who is ready to take on the political establishment.

What’s interesting about Romney and his supporters is that, despite his conservative rhetoric, moderates and country club conservatives continue to support his candidacy.

Think about it. Romney, who stresses his opposition to abortion, talks tough on immigration and rules out a tax increase even to help cut the deficit, continues to get the support of pragmatic conservatives who reject former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum’s ideological rigidity, thought Rep. Michele Bachmann (Minn.) was too conservative and viewed Texas Gov. Rick Perry as a bomb thrower.

Clearly, establishment Republicans also don’t believe Romney when he talks about his views and his agenda. If they did, they probably would feel about him the same way they feel about Santorum or Bachmann.

Romney’s great asset is that these voters figure he is merely pandering to evangelicals and the most conservative element of the GOP when he talks about cultural issues, immigration and taxes.

The bottom line, of course, is that nobody — not his critics and not his allies — really believes Mitt Romney.

The Washington Post’s Dan Balz pointed out to me recently that this makes Romney something like the opposite of what Barack Obama was in 2008.

Four years ago, Obama, who had only a thin legislative record and was known to have voted “present” on a number of important votes in the Illinois Legislature, was so ill-formed in the minds of voters that many could project their own hopes and dreams onto him, giving him considerable appeal among a wide range of voters.

People liked Obama, so they figured out a way to find themselves in agreement with him — even if they had no reason to believe that he really held the views they ascribed to him.

The question is whether, in November, Romney may be in a similar position as Obama was or whether the fact that nobody actually believes Romney will destroy his presidential bid completely.

Is Romney such a mass of contradictions that voters can look at him and project their positions on him, allowing them to support him? Or is his credibility so shot that too many voters will simply conclude that they can’t trust him, making it impossible for them to support him?

Go here to read the rest.  I can see the campaign slogan now:  In Your Heart You Know He’s Fibbing.


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  1. I am not giving up on Santorum… if he can win PA and TX– maybe he CAN be the nominee.. I do believe in the power of prayer…

    what are those republicans thinking of!!? Rubio Ryan Johnson JEBush etal-

    I liked what Santorum said in PA tonight

  2. I don’t know what his chief strength is but I want to encourage democrats everywhere to vote for Romney so “that you can find out what is in the man, away from the fog of controversy”.

  3. The Weather Vane’s chief strength: he is not Barack Hussein Obama.

    On his worst day he could not be half as inept as the man struggling 24/7 to wreck the American Dream.

    Whether Willard is as uber-dishonest as pharaoh: watch what he does not what he says.

  4. When you talk about establishment Republicans supporting Romney, you mean folks like Paul Ryan, Marco Rubio, Bob Bork, Nikki Haley, folks like that?

  5. Campaigning is not administrating. I hope Mitt Romney survives the firestorm, because he has his feet on the ground and can function to improve upon adverse conditions he finds, such as the US in 11/12 (not to mention 12/12).

  6. you won’t fear to read this.

    Wow, that was really impressive. A policy disagreement, a charge of hypocrisy, a question about Santorum’s tax returns, and then anger over some language Santorum used about a critic. All categorized as lies, though in none of the cases was it showed that Santorum actually lied.

    That’s some hard hitting stuff.

  7. I read the piece, too–looks like the usual discomfited ex-supporter stuff that flutters around every politician. Even excavates Santorum’s (admitted) early indifference to life issues.


    Relax, Pauli–you’ll get Romney. I’m not sure what issues he’ll be good on–Obamacare, energy and religious liberty are right out–but you’ll have him.

  8. He’s *not* pandering, Paul. He’s not. This is not a reaction to the gender gap in recent polls. He’s not falling all over himself like he did with the indexing of the minimum wage idea after his tax returns were release.


    He’s showing that same, steely Washington outsider resolve that’s going to get things done. Like chucking aside freedom of association.

    It’s severely conservative, when you think about it.

  9. I think someone else is watching this thread. Jeff Goldstein is keeping track:

    So. For those keeping score — or are merely interested in seeing how language changes in near-real time — “severe conservatism” now entails support for stimulus, TARP, cap-and-trade, bureaucratic preeminence over religious conscience, federal minimum wage laws pinned to inflation, the idea that the motive of capitalism is the creation of jobs, the idea that a president’s policies won’t impact gas prices, that Americans need to learn that higher gas prices are to be the norm, that it is appropriate for the government to introduce a top-down model for health care, and that an individual mandate is legitimate.

    Whereas if you find yourself to the right of those positions? Unhelpful extremism deployed by Hobbity purists who want to see Obama re-elected.

  10. “severe conservatism” now entails support for stimulus, TARP, cap-and-trade, bureaucratic preeminence over religious conscience, federal minimum wage laws pinned to inflation, the idea that the motive of capitalism is the creation of jobs, the idea that a president’s policies won’t impact gas prices, that Americans need to learn that higher gas prices are to be the norm, that it is appropriate for the government to introduce a top-down model for health care, and that an individual mandate is legitimate.

    In fairness to Mr. Romney:

    1. Fiscal stimulus was a perfectly reasonable policy choice in the circumstances faced at the time the President took office, just not a stimulus with the configuration of spending selected; please see Martin Feldstein’s remarks (among others) about what a properly constructed stimulus might have looked like.

    2. TARP as implemented may have been a suboptimal policy which disregarded accumulated experience on the containment of financial crises (per Charles Calomiris and Nouriel Roubini), but it has not worked out badly. This fellow Goldstein’s alternative would be…?

    3. Tradable permits are a tool for superintending common property resources, a task with which any government is presented. So are excises on effluvia. So are user charges. All were being promoted a generation ago by libertarians (e.g. S.H. Hanke) as alternatives to command-and-control regulations. Does Mr. Goldstein have take ideological exception to hammers and drills?

    4. I know there have been controversies over the implementation of public schemes for financing medical care in Massachusetts, but I have lost track of where it was demonstrated that Mr. Romney’s actual policy preferences disregarded ‘religious conscience’.

    5. With regard to the minimum wage, he said that indexing was preferable to irregular discretionary increases. That in and of itself would not commit him to a particular value for the federal minimum wage (and does Mr. Goldstein think that a federal standard would be inappropriate for an employer domiciled in multiple states?).

    6. What is Jeff Goldstein’s idea of what the ‘motive’ of capitalism should be?

    7. Whether or not a President’s policies have an impact on gasoline prices is not a normative question. They either do or they do not.

    8. Higher prices for natural resources may in fact be a future norm. The terms of trade are not fixed. Prices summarize what is going on in goods and factor markets and ration resources accordingly. You cannot alter that by waving an icon of Ronald Reagan at the Gulf Coast.

    9. Whatever Mr. Romney did or did not say about the financing of medical care, the federal government is currently financing about 30% of the medical care provided in this country and 40% or thereabouts of long-term custodial and nursing care. We already have a top-down model of a sort.

    10. Mr. Romney’s individual mandate was enacted by a state government. With regard to retirement benefits, you have three choices: tax people and run an income transfer program; sequester their income and mandate that they select from a menu of certified private plans; or dispense with public schemes entirely. Should we link to a video of that television advertisement that Margaret Chase Smith made in 1964 in which she denied emphatically that Barry Goldwater had any intention of dismantling Social Security? Is such a view now unacceptable in the Republican Party?

    There are enough authentic reasons to be wary of or alienated from Romney. One does not need to traffic in sectarian tripe.

  11. One does not need to traffic in sectarian tripe.

    Since it is a)Good Friday, and b)I have to spend the morning in the office, I’m afraid I can’t offer a point by point rebuttal, but there are holes in all of your defenses of Romney, thus your sectarian tripe line is completely ridiculous.

    I will offer one link with regards to religious conscience.

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