Mitt Romney did something oddly appropriate during a post-Thanksgiving interview with Fox News host Bret Baier: He got peeved.
It's been, in many ways, a thankless run so far for the former Massachusetts governor. He does everything he's 'supposed' to do and typically does it well. And yet, not only is he failing to attract passionate support, this 64-year-old grandfather who has been a pillar to his family, community and country gets to listen as he's called 'weather vane,' a craven tool of the prevailing political winds. It's no wonder Romney looked like he'd rather be home drinking hot chocolate with his wife instead of doing another interview about his 'X Factor'-like competition to be the guy everyone wants to have beer with.
This is what the pre-primary game has become: Stick to script, stay on pitch and you won't get voted off by the chattering class this week. It's not exactly the optimal way to determine who will make the best commander in chief.
And while Romney has changed his position on issues over the years, some of his shifts should come as welcome both to conservatives and other discerning general-election voters.
Romney has said that he came to realize that the Roe v. Wade case and the cultural shifts it brought in its wake have cheapened the value of human life. In this way, his conversion story happens to be true to where we are in history: legal abortion has had a dehumanizing effect on our lives.
For instance In a New York Times Magazine article published in August, a woman explained the relative ease with which she 'selectively reduced' one of her unborn twin children: 'The pregnancy was all so consumerish to begin with, and this became yet another thing we could control.' Even with the best of intentions, human life is becoming just another yes/no option in the marketplace of life.
On these and other issues, my colleague Ramesh Ponnuru makes the case that Romney is not someone conservatives should be depressed about supporting. It's true that Romney took a sharp right turn when he moved from state to national politics. But it's also true that in 2008 he was the candidate behind whom Rush Limbaugh and Mark Levin, among other conservative notables, said that the conservative movement should rally in order to stop John McCain from getting the nomination. He has not moved left since that time. His positions on policy questions are almost all the same as they were then. On a few issues he has moved right: He now favors a market-oriented reform to Medicare, for example.
Ramesh adds: If Romney was to McCain's right then, he is still. He's to George W. Bush's right, too. Bush never came out for the Medicare reform Romney has endorsed. Bush never said that Roe v. Wade should be overturned, either. Romney has. Romney's long list of policy advisers includes people who are, within their fields, roughly in sync with the politics of the Bush administration or to its right; almost nobody is significantly to its left.
And, whatever conservatives think of the state of Romney's ideological soul, if he has a House Speaker John Boehner and a Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, he's going to get to do a lot of the things he says he wants to. We are a country deeply disappointed and distressed that Washington doesn't seem to work right. He might just lead a Washington that can get things accomplished.
I don't know how many people made it to the end of that bad interview, but Romney's winning message was actually on display there. When asked what exactly his vision is, Romney came off in a manner that will, I suspect, resonate with many Americans -- conservative, independent, concerned with what the country will look like in years to come, with what we are leaving our children and grandchildren personally and generationally.
It's going to be middle class in America again, Romney said, where people have the conviction that the future is brighter than the past. America has to be strong, with a strong culture, with a strong economy, and a military that's second to none. And we're losing faith in those things. He added: "I want to make America stronger again."
Romney presents himself to voters with the biography of a turnaround artist, a businessman who has taken problems and created opportunity, success, and that desperately welcome word: jobs. He has cleaned up messes. Sounds like the kind of guy you'd send to Washington, D.C., right about now, doesn't he?
This may just work.