Romney and the Review

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Rich Lowry, the editor of the National Review, says that their endorsement of Mitt Romney this week wasn’t a unanimous decision of the editorial board, but it wasn’t close, either.

“I don’t want to say it was agonizing, but we have been as confused as many conservatives have,” he says. “It really just forced us to go through the process that many voters will have to go through.”

Rudy Giuliani and Mike Huckabee, the editors write, “would pull apart the coalition from opposite ends: Giuliani alienating the social conservatives, and Huckabee the economic (and foreign-policy) conservatives.”

The editors wrote, “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.”

Will it help boost Romney in the polls, or cause conservatives to at least give him a “second look,” in Lowry’s words? In a separate, syndicated column published on Friday, Lowry wrote that for the party to nominate Huckabee, rising in the polls, would amount to “an act of suicide.” 

The Review’s endorsement comes with continued volatility in the GOP race. A CBS News/New York Times poll this week confirmed what many suspected: Only 23 percent said they had made up their mind in the race, while 76 percent said it was too early to settle on one candidate.

The poll also showed that large numbers of GOP voters — 45 percent — still don’t know that Romney is a Mormon. But among those who do, there seems to be some movement in his favor: 52 percent of GOP primary voters said most people they knew would vote for a Mormon, up from 36 percent in June. Although Romney gave a speech on religion last week, Lowry expects that his religion will continue to be an issue into the general election.

“It will be an issue all the way through November if he wins the nomination,” Lowry says. “We think that is a mistake because he is not running for the seminary, he would be running the country.”

More explicit have been the attacks that rivals of both parties have aimed at Romney for shifting his positions. The evidence often comes in the form of videos played on YouTube from his prior campaigns for the Massachusetts Senate in 1994 and the state’s governorship in 2002.

“I think it is overplayed,” Lowry says. “You can’t deny it: Obviously he changed his position on some issues, including abortion…But the irony is that Huckabee is played as a purist, but he changed his position on issues like immigration and the Cuba embargo.”

Nevertheless, Lowry says that Romney has had a “pretty strong foundation” on various issues and they consider him a “reliable conservative.”

Can Romney survive if he loses Iowa? He’s invested far more advertising time than any other candidate.

“It depends on the margin,” Lowry says. “If he gets blown out, he’s in trouble. If he loses narrowly, that is survivable.”

Although Romney has drawn considerable support among California donors (including eBay’s Meg Whitman and developer Rick Caruso), little has come from Hollywood per se.

Romney was the first of the GOP candidates to take aim at the content coming out of entertainment. In a campaign ad (below) from last spring, called “Ocean,” Romney says that  “I’m deeply troubled by the culture that surrounds our kids today.” “I’d like to see violence and sex on TV and in video games and movies.” Should he be the nominee, such issues are bound to be resurrected for the general election. 

Then again, running as an outsider to Hollywood, the media and political elites can work in a candidates’ favor. Just as George W. Bush’s twangy cowboy image may have “fueled a lot of
hatred of Bush” among political elites, Lowry says, the same may happen
to Romney.

“Mitt Romney is one of the squarest candidates ever,” he says. “He
is kind of a gee whiz, jolly willakers kind of guy. There’s not a lot
of irony to him. He’s someone ‘The Daily Show’ will satire.”

 

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