Mitt Romney certainly presents an intriguing candidate for 2008.  He's aiming to be the choice of Christian conservatives despite the facts that 1) he is on the record being nice to gays; 2) he's on the record supporting Roe v. Wade; and 3) he's a Mormon and a sizable minority of Christian conservatives do not consider Mormons to be real Christians and consider that a dealbreaker in voting for President.  What is really amazing is the lengths that Romney is going to in order to revise his clear public record and appeal to Christan conservatives.  Certainly, we all expect politicians to pander and adjust their positions for electoral considerations to some degree, but Romney truly seems to be world class in this endeavor.  Two recent Washington Post columnists skewer him quite effectively on the matter.  First, Richard Cohen:

I have been following the zigs and zags of Mitt Romney, the former
Massachusetts governor and now Republican presidential candidate,
watching him grow progressively less progressive, sort of making
himself up as he goes along. As a result, I surf the Web with
trepidation, bracing myself for the story that I fear might be coming:
“Romney Says He Is Not Really a Mormon.''…

If there is one thing to say for the system, though, it is that it
subjects presidential candidates to a kind of torture. We learn early
on which of them have principles, backbone and pride in themselves —
the sort of integrity we want in a president. Since all politicians,
like lovers and mattress salesmen, lie a bit, we do not expect purity.
But Romney has taken things too far. I don't know whether he has any
respect for himself, but he sure as hell has none for us.

And Ruth Marcus:

From there, Romney proceeded to expound one of the odder positions I've
heard in years of listening to politicians talk about a subject most
would prefer to avoid: “I can tell you what my position is, and it's in a very narrowly
defined sphere, as candidate for governor and as governor of
Massachusetts,” he said. “What I said to people was that I personally
did not favor abortion, that I am personally pro-life. However, as
governor I would not change the laws of the commonwealth relating to

“Now I don't try and put a bow around that and say what
does that mean you are — does that mean you're pro-life or pro-choice,
because that whole package — meaning I'm personally pro-life but I
won't change the laws, you could describe that as — well, I don't
think you can describe it in one hyphenated word.”…

Romney's “Extreme Makeover: Political Edition” goes beyond abortion
rights. Once he supported allowing gays to serve openly in the military
and backed a federal law to prohibit discrimination on the basis of
sexual orientation — not anymore. He's gone from saying “I don't line
up with the NRA” to becoming, last August, a life member.

Romney is clearly a politician seriously lacking in integrity and unfit to serve as president.  I wonder about all those conservatives so quick to suggest that Bill Clinton governed by public opinion polls and that John Kerry was a “flip-flopper” will actually hold this against Romney.  Actually, I don't wonder.  Partisanship can be an incredibly blinding force (if not, Bush's approval ratings would actually be in the single digits where they belong). 

About Steve Greene
Professor of Political Science at NC State

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