A major part of the media narrative concerning the all-but-concluded Republican primary has been that Mitt Romney is “really” a moderate who has had to appear more conservative than he is in order to woo G.O.P. primary voters. This assumption of Romney’s moderation is based in part on his legitimately centrist record as governor of Massachusetts. Some have drawn the conclusion that Romney is a man of no fixed principles who will basically say or do anything to get elected. This in turn leads to the inference that Romney will move back to the center during the general election and govern from the center if he’s elected.
In today’s Washington Post, E.J. Dionne throws some cold water on this comforting theory:
It turns out that there is at least one question on which Mitt Romney is not a flip-flopper: He has a utopian view of what an unfettered, lightly taxed market economy can achieve.
Similarly, Think Progress has a short piece offering “8 reasons why Mitt Romney is more right-wing than George W. Bush.” These include his call for deeper and more regressive tax cuts, plan for converting Medicare into a voucher system, opposition to existing fuel efficiency standards, and professed agnosticism about the causes of climate change, among other things.
On the foreign policy front, conservative blogger Daniel Larison has noted that Romney has ratcheted up his belligerent rhetoric on Iran and surrounded himself with neoconservative foreign policy advisors. He has (ludicrously) characterized President Obama’s foreign policy as one of “appeasement” and “apologizing for America,” suggesting a return to Bush-style unilateralism.
Personally, I don’t think it’s important to try and discover what a politician “really” believes in his heart of hearts. What’s important is the positions he publicly stakes out, the constituencies he’s pledged fealty to, and the type of people he surrounds himself with (and will likely staff his administration with). Any radical about-face will cost political capital. On all these fronts, Romney looks, walks, and quacks like a conservative.