January 15, 2008
The woulda coulda shoulda Mitt Romney
Posted by: Chris
After deeply disappointing second-place finishes in Iowa and New Hampshire, Mitt Romney finally got the "gold medal" in today's Michigan primaries. He exponentially outspent his opponents and reinvented himself as a social conservative, only to be rejected in favor of a low-budget evangelical (Mike Huckabee) and a "straight-talking" moderate conservative (John McCain).
Finally, tonight, Romney got his big win and in the numbers is a glimpse of the appealing candidacy he could have offered GOP primary voters. Michigan voters ranked the economy as more important than the Iraq war and terrorism and went for Romney, the only candidate with experience as a successful businessman.
When Romney the management consultant was planning his presidential bid, he never imagined the economy would be the priority and so lurched to the right politically, destroying his credibility with voters generally and ultimately losing to Huckabee, the Southern Baptist former governor of Arkansas, who is the real deal.
A central part of that Romney reinvention was disclaiming his moderate gay rights record, of course, reversing himself on workplace protections, repealing "Don't Ask Don't Tell," supporting Gay Pride events and famously promising that he would be a more effective advocate for gay rights in the U.S. Senate than Ted Kennedy. Had he stuck to those guns, it's unlike he would have split evangelical voters evenly with Huckabee, as he did in Michigan today, but he would have more than made up the difference by offering Republican voters a proven track record on economic issues the other candidates couldn't touch.
Now that Romney has finally won, the other big winner is clearly Rudy Giuliani, as I predicted earlier in the week. How ironic, then, that he has enabled a GOP rival who -- while tacking to the right as expected -- has not tried to utterly discard a moderate record on gay rights, abortion and other hot-button social issues.
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