Finally, Mitt Romney tried conservatism at Wednesday night’s debate—and that did.
The result was Romney – that’s right, the guy that was once named the No.8 RINO in the country by Human Events – provided the country the most teachable moment on the differences between Republicans and Democrats in a presidential election since before Al Gore invented the Internet.
No, he wasn’t perfect. He still bought into the Left’s “soak the rich” redistribution of wealth flawed premise. He still got caught lauding the virtues of government regulation. And he is still the guy that provided the blueprint for Obamacare.
But Rome wasn’t built in a day.
When Romney was on, he was really on. He invoked the 10th Amendment. When was the last time a GOP presidential nominee did that? The answer that gave him the highest marks from a CNN focus group featuring undecided voters in the swing state of Colorado was Romney contrasting our philosophy of government from the Democrats, including Romney citing our founding documents like The Declaration of Independence.
Be still my beating heart.
Romney made me forget he was, well, Romney. I found myself cheering him on for the first time since, well, ever. Why? For me it’s not about personalities, factions, or partisanship. I’m just not a person motivated to vote for any hackneyed Republican because the Democrat is so bad anymore. Been there, done that, and bought the t-shirt. All that gave me was more big and immoral government and a loss of brand integrity.
The ruling class wants it to be about those petty things so it doesn’t have to provide what the American people are clamoring for—leadership. So if only Nixon could go to China and Nebuchadnezzar could praise Daniel’s God, then I’m certainly not going to muzzle the ox while it’s treading its grain. Yes, Romney’s record in Massachusetts is still heinous. And yes, there are times I trust him about as much as I trust the secondary of my Detroit Lions. But I’m also thankful that Romney chose the biggest stage in the world to defend vital parts of my belief system. Besides, given his past, it’s not like he doesn’t owe us one or a few.
See, for me this is about principles. A good friend of mine who is a national leader in the pro-life movement told me after the debate Wednesday night, “I never thought I’d be cheering on Romney.” I told him, “You’re not cheering on Romney. You’re cheering on our principles because Romney finally decided to run on them.”
Most of us become Republicans because of the principles in the party platform, and we recognize that those who don’t are usually the worst Republicans. After this debate, I sensed conservatives more united than we had been since the Scott Walker recall. That’s because principles unite us, while tactical obfuscation and “architect” electioneering divides us. The party establishment thinks we want their candidates to be perfect, when really all we want them to be is Republicans.
This was different than Romney’s well-chronicled and convenient etch-a-sketches in Republican primaries the past two election cycles on issues conservatives care deeply about. This was a candidate going on a national stage and doing what John McCain, George W. Bush, and Bob Dole were either incapable of doing or unwilling to. This was a guy willing to draw some stark worldview differences between himself and his Democrat opponent, while pointing out exactly why his Democrat opponent failed.
Remember when McCain-Palin spent four total debates four years ago never challenging the Democrat meme that free market economics is what led to the banking crisis? Remember how you got so mad you wanted to dislodge your own eyeball without anesthetic out of frustration? Remember screaming at the television set, begging and pleading the GOP ticket to actually defend what you believe for once?
Wednesday night our pleas were answered from an unlikely source, but at this point I’ll take it where I can get it. You can tell Romney was effective because the Left is claiming he transformed himself into a moderate to defeat Obama. No, we’ve seen Romney as a moderate. It’s called the 2012 Republican presidential primary. And we’ve seen Republican presidential candidates running as moderates, and we all have the collective scars to prove it.
This was Romney finally throwing caution (and hopefully his incestuous batch of defeatist consultants) to the wind and proving once for all that unlike McCain he’s willing to do what it takes to become president. What it takes is drawing stark distinctions between Republicans and Democrats and meaning it. When voters see stark distinctions between Republicans and Democrats, Republicans win. When voters don’t, Democrats do.
Conservatism works every time it’s tried.
Now that Romney has gone from sprinkling to full immersion conservative baptism under fire, let’s see if he follows through the final four weeks of the campaign. If he does, then for the first time I believe he could actually become the next President of the United States, and Republicans down ballot all over the country will benefit on November 6th.
Finally, for more of my thoughts on the impact of the debate, and what it means in the race moving forward, you can click here.
Steve Deace's nationally-syndicated radio show airs coast-to-coast each weeknight from 9-Midnight eastern, including many of the Salem Radio Network's top conservative talk stations in markets like New York City, Houston, Philadelphia, Seattle, and Minneapolis. His radio program has been featured in major media such as Fox News, CBS News, ABC News, CNN, MSNBC, The Washington Post, The New York Times, The Los Angeles Times, Politico, The Weekly Standard, and National Review among others. In 2013 he wrote the second-most shared column of the year for USA Today, defending "Duck Dynasty" and traditional American values. In addition to being a contributor for Town Hall.com, Deace is also a columnist for The Washington Times. He is also the author of the new book Rules for Patriots: How Conservatives Can Win Again, which includes a foreword by David Limbaugh and is endorsed by a who's who of conservative leaders. You can follow him on Twitter @SteveDeaceShow.