Romney's Point of Sale
Are these new poll numbers for former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney an early indication of what will be an inevitable march to the Republican presidential nomination in 2012, or are some party activists who still question Romney’s social conservative bona fides quietly sharpening their knives (as they did last time) in anticipation of the primary battle yet to come? Romney certainly seems to be benefiting from the enhanced public platform provided by all the media exposure accompanying his current (New York Times-bestselling) No Apologies book tour.
For me, two big questions need to be answered before I would be willing to buy into the Romney inevitability scenario. First, are social conservatives in the Republican Party’s activist base finally convinced that Romney’s conversion on several of their core issues is a genuine one? Second, if not, are they still willing to go along with the preference of the party’s institutional elites that the campaign’s dominant political narrative should focus on fiscal policy and national security issues? I’ve written previously about how Romney seems to be retooling in this direction.
It will be a while before we can answer these questions with any certainty. For now, these strong polling numbers for Romney mainly reflect a feeling among the party’s voters that he would be a viable candidate in a general election match-up with President Obama. As the internal dynamics of the presidential primary season fire up, however, issues of viability could take a back seat to intra-party battles over ideological purity. Romney and the institutional elites supporting him could find themselves at odds with some of the very same conservatives who seem to be expressing pragmatic support for him at the moment.

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