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During the Republican primaries, one of Mitt Romney’s advisers got in trouble for saying that once the nomination was won the campaign could use an “Etch-a-Sketch” and, well, reinvent some of its positions.
For people already inclined to doubt Mitt Romney’s transformation from moderate Northeastern Republican to dyed-in-the-wool right-winger, it was considered evidence that they were correct all along.
Now, as we inch closer to Election Day, the candidate keeps giving more signs that maybe we shouldn’t worry too much; maybe he was pretending all along just to get his party’s nomination.
After all, anyone who has followed national politics for a while now knows that the Republican Party has gotten farther and farther to the right, even since the Reagan days of the 1980s.
Moderates are no longer welcome under the very small GOP tent. Mitt Romney surely knows that. It’s why he described himself as “severely conservative” during one primary debate. That’s a line he would never have uttered as governor of Massachusetts.
The etch-a-sketch comment was the first hint that Romney’s heart may not really be in the straightjacket ideas of his party. During the first debate, he gave more evidence of that.
He made the case for government regulation, and – he probably wasn’t being honest here – but certainly didn’t sound like someone who truly believes in trickle down economics, which, of course, does not work.
This is why so many Democrats thought Romney lied a lot during that first debate. But Bill Clinton saw it differently; he said “moderate Mitt” was back.
Just last week, Romney surely disappointed a major sector of the party, the religious right, when he said that he had no intention of introducing any legislation on abortion.
It’s got to be hard enough for most of those people to stomach a Mormon in the first place; now they have to accept one who doesn’t put much of a priority on their main obsession.
In his own twisted way, Romney even stood up for the social safety net in that first debate, declaring that any American who truly needed help would get it. I certainly hope he’s being honest about that.
It’s conventional wisdom that politicians of both parties often play “to their base” during the primaries, and then veer “back to the middle” in the general election. Maybe that’s all Romney is doing. But the question of what he really believes has been haunting him all along, and it’s still unanswered.
At any rate, if he really is a moderate in his heart, he’s likely to be the last one ever nominated by an increasingly right-wing Republican party. In the future, their presidential nominees are likely to be someone like Rick Santorum, a hard-core, religious right, pro-war, anti-government ideologue.
When Romney loses next month – and I’m convinced he will – the Republican party will have an awful lot of soul searching to do. But since the inmates have already taken over the asylum, don’t expect the right-wingers to learn anything from it.
Meanwhile, as you read this, the second debate has already occurred. I’m betting that we saw a very different Barack Obama than we did the first time.
Someday, a Republican will win the White House without carrying Ohio. But it won’t happen this year. Polls show Romney trailing in Virginia and Ohio, and in most of the other battleground states.
He’s losing badly among women and Hispanics. Frankly, there just aren’t enough white, male conservative votes to put him over the top. In the future, the Republican party will have to embrace diversity or it’s going to lose many more presidential elections.
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Rick Howell, a Bedford native, can be reached by e-mail at NewCenHowell@aol.com.