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December 11, 2007

National Review Picks Romney

The endorsement season seems in full swing now, and this time Santa's dropped a big gift to Mitt Romney -- the National Review endorsement. When William F. Buckley's venerable journal speaks on effective conservatism, people listen, and Mitt's team has reason to cheer:

Our guiding principle has always been to select the most conservative viable candidate. In our judgment, that candidate is Mitt Romney, the former governor of Massachusetts. Unlike some other candidates in the race, Romney is a full-spectrum conservative: a supporter of free-market economics and limited government, moral causes such as the right to life and the preservation of marriage, and a foreign policy based on the national interest. While he has not talked much about the importance of resisting ethnic balkanization — none of the major candidates has — he supports enforcing the immigration laws and opposes amnesty. Those are important steps in the right direction.

Uniting the conservative coalition is not enough to win a presidential election, but it is a prerequisite for building on that coalition. Rudolph Giuliani did extraordinary work as mayor of New York and was inspirational on 9/11. But he and Mike Huckabee would pull apart the coalition from opposite ends: Giuliani alienating the social conservatives, and Huckabee the economic (and foreign-policy) conservatives. A Republican party that abandoned either limited government or moral standards would be much diminished in the service it could give the country. ....

Some conservatives question his sincerity. It is true that he has reversed some of his positions. But we should be careful not to overstate how much he has changed. In 1994, when he tried to unseat Ted Kennedy, he ran against higher taxes and government-run health care, and for school choice, a balanced budget amendment, welfare reform, and “tougher measures to stop illegal immigration.” He was no Rockefeller Republican even then.

As with most editorial positions at NR, they thought this through carefully and explained it well. The editors looked past the hyperbole of bumper-sticker slogans -- at least with Mitt -- and based their conclusion on the record. They have made a rational choice, as one would expect.

However, I disagree with some of their arguments, even if not necessarily with the endorsement itself. I believe the risk of Giuliani pulling apart the conservative coalition to be a lot lower than they propose, as well as with Huckabee. Both ran their jurisdictions with at least a center-right cast, if not as outright conservatives, despite having majority opposition in their legislative bodies. If we speak hyperbolically about any heterodoxy, it does not bode well for "big tent" thinking, and without moderates and independents, we will not win any national elections.

I like Mitt. I like Rudy and Mike, and most of the rest of the Republican field. I could enthusiastically support most of them in a general election. Like many Republican primary voters, I will probably not decide until I enter the polling station. The National Review endorsement will carry more weight with me than most others, though -- and I suspect that may be true of many undecided Republicans.


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