There probably isn’t much argument over whether Mitt Romney has conveniently changed his views on numerous political matters, but if anyone’s unconvinced, Salon had a great take on his five political lives, and numerous suspiciously timely changes of conscience. Unsurprisingly, the Daily Show was more effective at pointing this out than Perry or Gingrich ever was.
Romney’s often been compared to his fellow Bay Stater John Kerry, a man who lost a close winnable election following accusations of flip-flopping. As Andrew Sullivan put it…
Some believe that he has had trouble getting past 25 percent outside New Hampshire because of his flip-floppery or moderation. I suspect many Republican voters just realize he is their John Kerry. Because he is. Without the ideological consistency.
Newt Gingrich tried to hammer the point in an ad about how both Romney and Kerry speak French.
In a general election, there’s an obvious and significant difference between Romney and any Massachusetts Democrats who ran for President and lost. One political party is much stronger in the state than the other one, and it’s more impressive for a Mormon Republican businessman to be elected Governor than it is for Mike Dukakis’s Lieutenant Governor to be elected to the Senate.
A better contrast for Romney would be a Democrat who served in a state in which registered Republicans outnumber registered Democrats by more than two to one. I doubt Romney would be happy with someone noting the similarities, but he may have much in common with John Edwards. North Carolina isn’t quite as liberal as Massachusetts is conservative, but Edwards, a fellow wealthy wanna-be President, still didn’t try serving more than one term in statewide office and was followed by a Republican. He started his term as a centrist, and finished as one of the most liberal members. And as a former Senator, he went further to the left.
Like Romney, John Edwards was from a region that favored the other political party, and a profession that favored his side. Despite his obvious morals flaws, had Edwards been the nominee, he might have become President. But it wouldn’t suggest that Republicans would have similar advantages with a North Carolinian candidate, as that individual would probably not have had to face as m any difficulties winning the General Election. Jacob Weisberg compared Romney to Al Gore in a piece for the Financial Times yesterday, and he has a point there.
I think Kerry’s flip-flopping is exaggerated as the cause of his General Election loss. He was an anti-war activist who became Senator in a very blue state. His record was rather liberal, which made it difficult to run as a moderate, even in comparison to Bush. His difficulty wasn’t that voters were unsure whether he would be left-wing enough in the White House. Had he been more consistent, I doubt that 118,776 liberal Ohioans would have suddenly remembered to vote for him on Election Day, or that 59,388 Bush voters from the state would have suddenly changed their minds.
All the pandering might help Romney in the General Election. Most social conservatives will vote for the Republican over Obama. But it’s easier for Independents and dissatisfied Democrats to vote for Romney if they think he’s really a secret moderate.
This could backfire if enough social conservatives stay home, while enough unsure moderates stick with the devil they know, after realizing the flaws in the strategy of hoping that a favored candidate is lying about his core beliefs. But if the Republican party had nominated someone unambiguously conservative (Senator Jim Demint, Governor Butch Otter of Idaho), I doubt that their fortunes against Obama would be stronger than with the flip-flopper from Massachusetts.