Meet the conservatives who voted for Obama in 2008 -- and might do so again

“Well [audible sigh], I always tell people I’m a Goldwater conservative, and we are a pitifully small remnant,” says Kevin Gutzman, co-author with Thomas E. Woods of Who Killed the Constitution? “I would like to have Governor Romney give me a reason to think he is substantially different from Obama.” Another sigh. Gutzman eventually answers that he’ll vote for Romney, unhappily.

Same question for Bruce Bartlett: “[Sigh] I think if I were inclined to vote this year—which I’m not—I’d make the same decision that Obama is better. But there is a case for Romney.”…

Although most Obamacons have mixed feelings about Obama now, not one of those I interviewed expressed the regret about choosing the Illinois senator over John McCain in 2008, given what they knew at the time. Foreign policy was the issue they cited over and over again: “Four years ago, I disliked McCain intensely; it seemed like the choice between Obama and someone with policies very like Obama’s except that he would also invade Iran,” says Megan McArdle of the Daily Beast…

Exploring the reasoning of the thinkers most satisfied and most dissatisfied with Obama can be instructive. Jeffrey Hart is the Obamacon most pleased with his choice, and he is anxious to see the president rewarded with a second term. He did not simply swallow his vote as if it were bad medicine; he argues positively that a true conservative has no choice but to help elect Obama again. “One definition of conservatism would be to conserve what is good and to devise solutions to problems as they arise,” he says. For Hart, Republicans like Richard Nixon and Ronald Reagan secured and extended the achievements of the New Deal and Great Society. But now, he says, “I fear we’ll lose Medicare through the Ryan budget.” Asked how he feels about most self-described conservatives sticking with the GOP, he replies serenely: “They’re wrong.”