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    November 22, 2006

    Romney the Right-Winger

    Posted by: Chris

    Romneymitt You wouldn't think John McCain left much daylight on his right when he reiterated last Sunday his opposition to marriage and just about every other form of legal recognition or civil rights for gay and lesbian Americans. Well, the intrepid governor of Massachusetts, Mitt Romney, found some.

    In an interview with the D.C. Examiner this week, Romney declared that in a presidential race pitting him against McCain and former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani, only one can claim Bush's mantle.
    "I'm a conservative Republican, there's no question about that," said Romney. "I'm in a different place than the other two."

    Romney was seizing on the one part of McCain's anti-gay screed that wasn't completely punitive; the Arizona senator called himself a "federalist" who wanted to leave both gay marriage and abortion to the states to decide. That means McCain opposes a federal marriage amendment, and Romney smelled blood in the water:

    “That’s his position, and in my opinion, it’s disingenuous,” said Romney. “Look, if somebody says they’re in favor of gay marriage, I respect that view. If someone says — like I do — that I oppose same–sex marriage, I respect that view. But those who try and pretend to have it both ways, I find it to be disingenuous.”

    What's disingenuous isn't McCain's opposition to a federal amendment on federalist grounds, but Romney's claim that McCain is trying to "pretend to have it both ways." What's further disingenuous is Romney's current effort to distance himself from his more moderate past, which had been every bit the political necessity then, to be elected GOP governor of such a blue state, as being conservative is now in the coming Republican primaries.

    When he ran for governor in 2002, he sought and received the endorsement of Log Cabin Republicans and promised not to change the state's abortion laws. The next year, Romney criticized the landmark Massachusetts court ruling on marriage and tried to overturn it. But he nonetheless acknowledged that the state "must provide basic civil rights" for gay couples.

    He'll be regretting those words in the coming months, no doubt, as he "tries to pretend to have it both ways" with conservative Protestants suspicious of his membership (and leadership) in the Mormon church. From another report in the Examiner:

    Rev. Jerry Falwell, an evangelical who founded the Moral Majority, said he expects Christian conservatives will focus more on Romney's personal morality and his current views than his past statements or his faith.

    "We're not trying to find a Sunday school teacher in chief; we're trying to find a commander in chief," said Falwell, who traveled to Massachusetts last month to meet with Romney. Also attending the meeting were Franklin Graham, Gary Bauer, Lou Sheldon, Richard Land and other conservative social and religious leaders.

    "Where he goes to church will not be a factor; how he lives his life will be," said Falwell.

    The battle between Romney and McCain over who can be more conservative plays to the advantage of Giuliani, because the farther to the right the other two go, the more space there is in the middle for him. And with Romney and McCain splitting the right-wing vote, Giuliani's odds improve. In fact, given Giuliani's unquestionable credentials on terrorism, the primaries could offer GOP primary voters an opportunity to decide which is more important: national security or personal morality.



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