Severe Politics Alert
It has been almost a year since former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney announced the formation of a presidential exploratory committee, and for most of that time he has been largely content to watch the other presidential hopefuls undercut each other in an attempt to become the consensus anti-Romney candidate. But at this past weekend’s Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC), Romney finally found himself back where he was in 2008, imploring movement conservatives in the Republican Party to take him seriously as one of them.
I have seen this coming for a while now, and primary and caucus losses in states like Georgia, Colorado, Missouri and Minnesota, have all fed into the narrative that conservatives in the party just don’t trust Romney as their ideological standard-bearer. While the governor will still likely grind out a path to the nomination, the process has been accompanied by increasingly frantic attempts to convince the base of the party that he is a kindred political spirit. This reached a crescendo at CPAC on Friday, where Romney, in one of the oddest political elocutions I have ever heard, referred to himself as a severely conservative governor. The line was apparently ad-libbed, which makes sense, since I can’t imagine any professional speech writer suggesting such a turn of phrase.
I was very tough on Romney back in late 2007 for the same behavior. Although he managed to win the CPAC straw poll this past weekend, I don’t think the strategy sets him up particularly well for a general election bid. It should be abundantly clear to Romney at this point that he will never win these folks over, so he might as well focus on building a coalition that does not depend on them. It’s doable, but as was true in 2008, Romney can’t seem to help himself.
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