Romney’s public positions and his political interests both suggest he would govern as a conservative, albeit a cautious one. Many conservatives want more than that from a president, more than executive experience and public agreement with them on the issues. They want a president who shares their convictions and instincts, who will actively seek occasions to advance their views, and who will take political risks for them. They are right to want these things, for the most part, and there is no guarantee Romney will deliver them.

On the other hand, there is also something to be said for calculation in a politician. Successful political leaders need to have a realistic sense of what public opinion, and the political system, will bear, a sense cultivated by the habit of calculation. And there is a limit to how much political risk conservatives should want a president allied to them to take. Most of the time conservative activists should be trying to reduce the risks of advancing conservative initiatives rather than to goad elected officials to political recklessness. Conservatives should, that is, point the way for ambitious politicians to advance good ideas that can command the support of a national center-right majority…

The last time Gingrich held office, he reached a depth of unpopularity that suggested that the public did not merely disagree with his policies but disliked him as a person. Memories have faded, and his current fans say he is a changed man. But he still has the rhetorical style — by turns incendiary, grandiose, and abrasive — that turned off middle-of-the-road Americans then. (November 16: “Because I am much like Reagan and Margaret Thatcher . . . ”) And he does not seem to have learned that aspiring presidents should weigh their words carefully. Recall the events that led to his campaign’s meltdown this summer, in which he first praised Paul Ryan’s plan for entitlements, then condemned it as “right-wing social engineering,” and finally apologized to Ryan for the comment.