Sunday, October 28, 2012

Have Conservatives Warmed to Mitt?

All through the primaries, conservatives, including this one, kept searching for the anti-Mitt. Just about everyone got to take a cut, and in the end, Romney won a battle of attrition. But consider this: while 30% of the country is Republican, 40% consider themselves to be conservative. This is why Republicans tend to win base-driven elections (Reagan) and lose battles for the center (Ford, Dole, McCain).

Despite the word "extreme" ushering forth from every Democrat talking head, no serious analyst considers Romney to be ideologically conservative. Conservatives themselves certainly don't. And yet, my non-scientific observation is that they have embraced the governor. It would be tempting to say that this is a marriage of convenience, that conservatives would vote for a toaster if it meant dispensing with Obama, but no, I don't that quite covers it. I think there is genuine conservative enthusiasm behind Romney at this point. I feel it myself.

So, why? Is this a case of wishful thinking? It may be, but I think there's something else going on. Mitt Romney is being embraced not as an conservative ideologue, but as a problem solver. His entire background paints a picture not of a thinker but as a doer. Not as someone who views the world as a struggle between ideas, but as a series of problems to be solved.

Romney was a consultant, of course, and then an exceptionally successful private equity executive. Both jobs are about fixing things that are broken. Olympics? Another problem to solve. By all accounts, he even views winning the election as yet another problem to be broken down into component parts and solved. Define the problem, put a plan in place, execute.

Let me be clear that it is always a concern when the non-ideological Republicans are elected president. It gives us Nixons, Fords, and Bush 1s. Ineffective all, and a lack of philosophical bearing was a problem common to each of them. Romney himself had a problematic stint as Massachusetts governor, at least from a conservative perspective (Romneycare!). I'll go a step further and suggest that Romney would have made a poor president if he'd been elected in, say 1996. This is not a man you want for the good times. Left with no major problems, who knows where someone with no compass goes.

But now, the man and the moment might just be a splendid match. America's problems are acute and definable. Romney can see them, and he will attack them like the problem solver he is, and in doing so, will also be aligning himself with conservative economic priorities. I think this explains the new love affair between Romney and his former detractors.

No one planned it this way, but it's a good thing for Mitt it's working out like this. He won't win if conservatives don't show up next week, but show they will.

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