Romney's Convictions

Matt Lewis
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Posted: Feb 01, 2008 5:48 PM
Today's Wall Street Journal features an editorial that hits the nail on the head, regarding the two bad choices conservatives are now being asked to make:
John McCain's difficulties in selling himself to GOP voters reflect his many liberal lurches over the years -- from taxes to free speech, prescription drugs and global warming cap and trade. Republicans have a pretty good sense of where he might betray them. Yet few doubt that on other issues -- national security, spending -- Mr. McCain will stick to his principles no matter the opinion polls. If Mr. Romney loses to Senator McCain, the cause will be his failure to persuade voters that he has any convictions at all.
Without a doubt, John McCain is a flawed candidate.  But the fact that McCain is winning, implies that Mitt Romney has failed to persuade voters that he is, in fact, honestly a conservative. 

The Republican field was pretty weak, let's be honest.  John McCain fought his way back into this race, but my gut tells me he could not have pulled off this miracle comeback had he faced a real-life conservative candidate who could convince conservatives that he didn't become conservative for political purposes.

I'm not sure if Mitt Romney is the real deal, or not, but here's my concern (which I think is shared by other conservatives):  It is easy to be a conservative in a Republican Primary -- where the centrifugal nature of primaries rewards candidates for such behavior.  But what happens when one is elected, and quite the opposite is true?

Ronald Reagan knew what he believed in for thirty years.  He read Burke and consulted Buckley and Freedman.  These moorings kept him conservative when it would have been convenient to not be conservative. 

Even if you assume that Mitt Romney's having changed positions on many fundamental policy positions after the age of 50 is, in fact, legitimate -- not enough time has elapsed to ensure those positions have been ingrained in him. 

John McCain is tough and has guts.  But he is clearly wrong on a variety of issues, including campaign finance reform.  Ultimately, though, I think much of McCain's success revolves around the fact that many grassroots conservatives have decided that the devil we know is better than the devil we don't know ...