Romney in 2002: Hey, liberals, “you really need me in Washington”

posted at 12:45 pm on November 3, 2011 by Ed Morrissey

This might be a more helpful story to Mitt Romney in October 2012 rather than November 2011.  Undoubtedly, that’s why the Washington Post decided to run with it now:

Mitt Romney was firm and direct with the abortion rights advocates sitting in his office nine years ago, assuring the group that if elected Massachusetts governor, he would protect the state’s abortion laws.

Then, as the meeting drew to a close, the businessman offered an intriguing suggestion — that he would rise to national prominence in the Republican Party as a victor in a liberal state and could use his influence to soften the GOP’s hard-line opposition to abortion.

He would be a “good voice in the party” for their cause, and his moderation on the issue would be “widely written about,” he said, according to detailed notes taken by an officer of the group, NARAL Pro-Choice Massachusetts.

“You need someone like me in Washington,” several participants recalled Romney saying that day in September 2002, an apparent reference to his future ambitions.

Romney made similar assurances to activists for gay rights and the environment, according to people familiar with the discussions, both as a candidate for governor and then in the early days of his term.

WaPo’s reporters Peter Wallsten and Juliet Eilperin say that this gives us some “revealing insights into the ever-evolving ideology of Romney.”  Boy, does it ever.  As Wallsten and Eilperin also note, though, this isn’t entirely new.  They sniffed some of this out from a Los Angeles Times profile of Romney in 2007, just as he was launching his first presidential bid.

The article goes into great detail on his policy positions, especially on the environment, which we have already covered at Hot Air.  The question is less that Romney has an “ever-evolving ideology,” though, than whether Romney has any ideology at all.  One could look at that positively and say that Romney might be the ultimate Republican pragmatist who can get things done, or negatively with Romney being another politician willing to say anything to get elected.  Since the biggest aim for Republicans in the 2012 general is to send Barack Obama into retirement, being able to get elected might not be an awful epithet to toss.

Here’s the problem with that, however.  In either description, there is no reliable indicator to determine exactly what a President Romney would do once in office.  It’s possible, as Michael Gerson argued this week, that Romney can no longer afford to flip again on any of these issues.  It’s also possible that President Mitt Romney might turn into Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger, who folded his common-sense conservative tent after getting one bloody nose in a referendum fight and aligned himself with liberal Democrats in California.  Pragmatically speaking, that allowed Schwarzenegger to win re-election.  Did that benefit Republicans in California?  Not at all, and some California Republicans believe that Schwarzenegger’s bad performance will remain a millstone around their necks for some time to come.

Again, if Romney wins the nomination, I will vote for him in November and have no trouble encouraging others to do so.  Before that time arrives, though, conservatives should take a hard look at the current field to find the most reliable conservative that has a chance at winning both the nomination and the general election.  If people conclude that’s Romney, fine, but we’re not done with the vetting process yet, either.

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