Let’s be clear – conservatives want an end to the disastrous and dangerous administration of Barack Obama, but we could use a little help from the presumptive Republican presidential nominee and his staff.
In the aftermath of former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney’s defeat of the more conservative candidates in the Republican primaries, grassroots conservatives and Tea Partiers took a little time to lick their wounds – which were many, given Romney’s carpet bombing tactics in the campaign – and mostly concluded that they were at least willing to listen to Romney’s pitch.
Plus, everyone understands that conservatives are going to be engaged in this election, especially given President Obama’s destructive deficit spending and his continued assaults on the Constitution and the rule of law.
However, the question is, will conservatives be engaged on behalf of the Republican presidential candidate or conservative candidates for the Senate, House, and state and local offices – or all of the above?
Governor Romney got conservatives looking his way with a strong speech on faith and family at Liberty University and his prompt condemnation of Barack Obama’s support for same sex marriage.
But these were set pieces from the campaign, and although apparently sincere, not particularly indicative of the candidate’s inner self and habits of mind.
When Romney, and especially advisors such as Eric Fehrnstrom and Andrea Saul have to think on their feet, what comes forth are not responses or answers based on a sound understanding of conservative philosophy or the consensus views of conservative leaders, but the inept attempts to pander or have it both ways so typical of establishment Republicans.
As The Wall Street Journal observed in a recent editorial, “Appearing on MSNBC, close Romney adviser Eric Fehrnstrom was asked by host Chuck Todd if Mr. Romney "agrees with the president" and "believes that you shouldn't call the tax penalty a tax, you should call it a penalty or a fee or a fine?"
"That's correct," Mr. Fehrnstrom replied, before attempting some hapless spin suggesting that Mr. Obama must be "held accountable" for his own "contradictory" statements on whether it is a penalty or tax. Predictably, the Obama campaign and the media blew past Mr. Fehrnstrom's point, jumped on the tax-policy concession, and declared the health-care tax debate closed.”
“For conservative optimists who think Mr. Fehrnstrom misspoke or is merely dense, his tax absolution gift to Mr. Obama was confirmed by campaign spokeswoman Andrea Saul, who tried the same lame jujitsu spin,” as The Wall Street Journal so correctly termed it.
Neither Fehrnstrom nor Saul, who worked for moderate Republican Senator Orin Hatch before joining the Romney campaign, have any background in conservative policy or politics – they are typical establishment Republican political operatives, so their floundering when faced with a clear yes or no conservative policy call comes, unfortunately, as no surprise.
Republicans have won seven of the past 11 presidential elections running on a conservative platform. Everyone understands that, while Romney may conduct himself personally in a conservative way -- he’s a businessman, not a movement conservative. But he can still run and govern as a conservative, which is what he must do to win.
Until Governor Romney and his team learn the language of conservatism, the result of the November election is in doubt. If Governor Romney truly wants to win in November, he needs to bring people with a real background in the conservative movement into his campaign, not as window dressing or low level staff, but as an organic part of his policy making and messaging.