Today’s issue of The Hill, one of the newspapers specializing in coverage of Capitol Hill, carried an interesting story with this headline: "GOP frets Romney’s conservative tack could hurt in November general election."
Our first reaction here at CHQ was, “If there has been a Romney ‘conservative tack’ we (and most other movement conservatives and Tea Partiers) missed it.”
But after reading further the headline made perfect sense because there weren’t many actual Republicans quoted in the article. It was mostly political consultants, a Democrat Member of Congress, college professors and others who rarely leave the armchair to go out in the snow and knock on doors for a February Republican primary election, let alone talk to Republican voters in outside-the-Beltway America.
Their complaint, in a nutshell, is that Romney has been deviating from the content-free campaign script they think Republican candidates should follow to occasionally embrace a stray conservative idea or two.
And they are particularly incensed that Romney appears to have adopted the idea of a federal “personhood amendment” that would define life as beginning at fertilization and, according to its critics, would ban all abortions.
The article goes on to quote the political consultants, Democratic Congressman Charles Gonzales and college professors berating conservatives, and Romney, for taking positions they think are “distancing himself from mainstream America.”
Nothing better explains the rise of the Tea Party (and the various Republican election debacles of the past 50 years) than this sort of nonsense coming from the Republican political class.
As James Taranto pointed out in a recent Wall Street Journal piece (and quoting former Reagan administration official Jeffery Bell’s forthcoming book, "The Case for Polarized Politics"), social conservatism has a winning track record for the GOP.
"Social issues were nonexistent in the period 1932 to 1964," Bell wrote. "The Republican Party won two presidential elections out of nine, and they had the Congress for all of four years in that entire period. . . . When social issues came into the mix – I [Bell] would date it from the 1968 election . . . the Republican Party won seven out of 11 presidential elections."
Santorum is now in the top spot in most national polls for a reason: he is the real movement conservative in the race. In defiance of the conventional wisdom, he has steadily gained ground by working to expand his appeal from his base among social conservatives and national defense conservatives to attract economic conservatives and the small government constitutional conservatives of the Tea Party.
As I have noted many times, when Republicans run content-free establishment campaigns they lose. When they nationalize the election and run on the conservative agenda they win.