Thu Feb 21, 2013, 11:12 AM
DonViejo (26,025 posts)
Romney returns to the place where his reputation for spineless opportunism was born
It’s OK to stop pretending, Mitt
The defeated White House candidate returns to the place where his reputation for spineless opportunism was born
BY STEVE KORNACKI
So Mitt Romney is heading back to CPAC. The GOP’s failed presidential nominee, who’s barely been heard from since conceding defeat to President Obama more than three months ago, will turn up at next month’s conservative mega-conference, his highest profile appearance since the meeting.
According to a statement, Romney sees the event as an opportunity to say “thank you to the many friends and supporters who were instrumental in helping my campaign.” Al Cardenas, the president of the American Conservative Union and an organizer of the annual event, said that attendees will be eager to hear Romney’s “comments on the current state of affairs in America and the world, and his perspective on the future of the conservative movement.” The Cardenas connection is worth noting; he was among the few Republicans with solid movement conservative credentials to stand with Romney in both his 2008 and 2012 campaigns.
If this all seems a bit awkward, it should. Romney and CPAC were never a particularly good match. The former Massachusetts governor took an interest in the annual gathering when he set out to seek the ’08 GOP nomination. At the time, there seemed to be a gaping opening on the right. Neither of the two front-runners, John McCain and Rudy Giuliani, were trusted by the true-believer right – McCain because of immigration and campaign finance reform (not to mention his spite-fueled hostility to George W. Bush in the early phase of his presidency), Giuliani because of the liberal stands on abortion, gay rights, and gun control he staked out on his New York City days. And the candidate who was supposed to be the right’s savior, George Allen, had unexpectedly lost his 2006 Senate reelection bid in Virginia, ending his national hopes on the spot.
The nomination, the Romney team quickly concluded, would be theirs if they could position their candidate as the pure alternative to McCain and Giuliani. The only problem: Romney, to that point, had never been a conservative purist, at least publicly. As a candidate Massachusetts, he’d bent over backward to establish pro-choice bona fides, pledged to do more for gay rights than Ted Kennedy and distanced himself from Reagan-Bush Republican orthodoxy. And as governor, he’d signed the state on to a regional greenhouse gas initiative and closed a budget deficit with massive fee hikes. But when it came time to run in ’08, he settled on a strategy of pretending none of this had ever happened. The Romney who showed up at CPAC in early 2007 vehemently embraced the conservative cause and openly mocked his home state and its liberal reputation. He was a youthful and energetic 59 and his speech stirred genuine excitement. Romney won the ’07 straw poll and seemed on course to staking out his desired position in the field.
But it was mostly a sham, of course, and as details – and YouTube videos – of Romney’s past crimes against conservatism began circulating widely, his momentum stalled. For a brief period in ’07, he climbed to the lead in both Iowa and New Hampshire polling, putting him in position to pull off a nomination-sealing one-two punch at the start of the primary season. But doubts about his true convictions grew, particularly on the Christian right, where his Mormonism may also have hindered him. Romney fared respectably in Iowa on caucus night, but the story was Mike Huckabee’s solid nine-point victory. Then, five days later, a resurgent McCain denied Romney in New Hampshire. That set up a three-way race Romney was doomed to lose, with large, more moderate states siding with McCain and conservative southerners splitting their loyalties between Huckabee and Romney. Romney never got the clear conservative/liberal one-on-one shot against McCain that his campaign had been built around.
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