Conservatives were so excited by Mitt Romney’s manic attack performance during the first presidential debate that they missed the fact that Romney changed all of his positions except kill PBS. Indeed, Romney fashioned himself into an Obama-lite during the first debate, abandoning his previous positions in order to appeal to more voters.
Conservatives didn’t seem to mind, which might indicate that they are more on board with attacking Obama than any real ideology. However, that’s a slippery slope for the Republican presidential candidate to navigate, because if conservatives realize what he actually said, they might not appreciate being played by Romney.
Conservatives are going to be played, like it or not, because the Romney camp interpreted their blood lust as tacit approval to move further to the left.
Romney campaign officials told Politico that while their electoral map still looks terrible, “conservatives were so down on the campaign before the debate — and so rapturous during it — that they will give him a lot of maneuvering room to talk in more moderate ways.”
I suspect the Romney campaign has underestimated the Right if they think that the Right was giving them the okay to moderate his positions. It’s more likely that conservatives were distracted by the rapture of Romney attacking Obama and ignored the substance of how he accomplished it.
Just today, Romney, who on the trail promised conservatives he was for the Personhood Amendment that would make even some forms of birth control illegal, told the Des Moines Register that he had no abortion legislation planned. Romney said, “There’s no legislation with regards to abortion that I’m familiar with that would become part of my agenda.” That’s quite a switch from even the Republican Party platform, which seeks to make abortion illegal even when the life of the mother is at risk.
In February of this year, Romney was telling conservatives another story in Toledo Ohio. He said, “I’m in favor of a pro-life policy. The legislation that relates to abortion which is something that is going to have to be approved by the Supreme Court and the key decisions I’ll take as the president will be number one, stopping funding for Planned Parenthood, re-instituting the Mexico City policy which says our funds can’t be used for abortion around the world and appointing justices to the Supreme Court that will follow the Constitution, hopefully reverse Roe v. Wade, and return to the states, the authority for making law with regards to abortion.”
We mentioned this during the debate freakout, but it’s worth repeating. Romney “won” by losing himself and all of his previous positions except for the kill PBS stance. Will conservatives allow him to move so far to the left that he is the Obama lite he presented at the debate? That would suggest that conservatives don’t really disagree with Obama’s policies at all, and don’t really have an ideology other than hating Obama.
Perhaps conservatives are clinging to the fact that while Romney changed his rhetoric, he hasn’t officially changed any of his policies to match the rhetoric. But that’s a lot of faith to put in someone who is best known for flip flopping, and someone whom the base has never trusted fully. It’s not as if Romney has specified any of his plans in detail, so anyone taking him at his constantly evolving word is risking being had.
Conservatives love seeing anyone beat down Obama, even if it’s not politically wise or even a winning strategy. They’ve been so programmed to hate this President that they can’t bear anything but a Palin or Romney attack dog mode from their leader.
As the polls are already showing, Romney’s debate performance didn’t win him approval or likability or trust. It also didn’t win him the image of someone tough enough to be President. What the Right sees as tough, the rest of the nation sees as manic hysteria and/or bullying. As adults know, bullies aren’t really strong; they can dish it out, but they can’t take it. Belligerence doesn’t pass for strength in the middle as it does on the Right.
We’ll have a chance to see how Romney takes it from the public during the town hall debate, a challenging format for Romney who can’t stand to be questioned by anyone, including children.
The Romney etch-a-sketch move to the middle has commenced. We await the moment when the Right realizes they’ve been stabbed in the heart, again. If they don’t care, then they are lending further proof to the suspicion that their four year rager was never about policy or ideas, and certainly wasn’t about taxes or abortion.