Much of the conservative punditocracy has declared that Mitt Romney is the consensus conservative candidate. If he is, he's the least consensual consensus candidate in modern political history -- the man can't break 25 percent with a sledgehammer. While his supporters shout from the hills that Romney essentially tied for the win in Iowa, his glass remains three-quarters empty, with no-name Rick Santorum winning as much of the vote, Ron Paul winning nearly as much, and Newt Gingrich and Rick Perry combining for as much. The last time a Republican candidate captured the nomination for the presidency by winning Iowa with this low a vote total, his name was Bob Dole. A couple of years later, he was hawking Viagra.
Nonetheless, the word is out: The fix is in. Unbelievably, not a single anti-Romney television ad was run in the state of Iowa. And while a few conservatives -- including yours truly -- have come out and opposed nominating the most left-wing Republican in the field, many more conservatives have endorsed Romney's candidacy.
Now there are good reasons for supporting Romney in the GOP nomination race. Some people argue that he has the most appeal to independents, because he is the least openly conservative. Others state that he doesn't have personal baggage and is thus less likely to become fodder for late night talk shows. Still others contend that his vanilla personality means that the focus of the election will remain on President Obama and such focus will make Romney a shoe-in. Finally, there are those who say that Romney has had his convenient road-to-Damascus conversion to conservatism and we should now trust him.
These arguments, at the very least, are understandable. What is not understandable is the contention by so many conservatives that Romney's record is conservative. It isn't. He's always been an advocate of a carefully managed, large government rather than a freedom-ensuring small one; his record in Massachusetts shows him to be an advocate for liberal policies like the individual mandate and activist judges. There can be no doubt that among all the Republicans running, his record is the most left. Even Jon Huntsman looks like Ronald Reagan next to Romney.
Why, then, do so many conservatives say that Romney represents true conservatism?
Because it's convenient.