Ann Romney in 1994: "We didn't know a single Republican"

“Independence and pragmatism” have been at the heart of Mitt Romney’s politics from his first entrance into the electoral arena, reports today, with a look back at an article that revealed Romney as he was when he decided to run for the United States Senate in 1994.

“When Romney decided to run, Republicans exchanged quizzical looks: ‘We didn’t know a single Republican when we jumped in in December,’ his wife, Ann, says,” Brownstein reported.

“As a registered independent, Romney had voted in the Democratic presidential primary in 1992 to support Paul E. Tsongas (though he backed George Bush in the general election, he says),” wrote Brownstein. “He briefly considered running for the Senate seat as an independent as well, his wife says, before rejecting the idea as impractical.

“Independence and pragmatism remained at the center of his appeal, though,” wrote Brownstein. “(Even today, he tries to keep his distance from a national Republican Party still held in some suspicion here: He has refused to sign onto the national GOP ‘contract’ party leaders are pushing in Washington.)

“Romney offered himself not as a conservative, but a Weld-like moderate: frugal on spending and insistent that welfare recipients work for their checks, but supporting abortion rights and gay rights and willing to ban assault weapons,” wrote Brownstein.

The descriptions of his approach — if not the descriptions of his specific positions — actually still fit Romney’s approach today. Might it be that Romney is actually the most consistent candidate of all? He’s a consistent politician, a candidate who, all along, has recognized that he has to win the political game to be able to implement his top priorities — which have always been economic in nature — when it comes to policies. Maybe his mistake has actually been in trying to brand himself now as “severely conservative.”

Early in the primary, Romney touted his impressively stable personal life as evidence that, at his core, he’s a very constant and principled man. Many conservatives rejected that argument and continued to focus on the many ways he’s reinvented himself for election after election. But, again, even that reinvention is very much a stable part of Romney. He seems to be a very conservative person. He combines a conservative cast of mind with a shrewd approach to every problem he faces — including the problem of how to win elections. It’s impressive, the more I think about it.

One quick note on Ann Romney’s statement: “We didn’t know a single Republican.” If you ask me, such a statement — remembered at this juncture in an eventful primary season — works in Romney’s favor. It underscores just how blue a state Massachusetts really is. The Romneys were alone in the Bay State, it implies, with little choice but to be independent if they weren’t willing to be out-and-out liberal. It also reminds wary grassroots voters: If he’s a part of the establishment now, well, it wasn’t always that way.

Let me summarize this way: We can do better than Barack Obama and we could do worse than Mitt Romney.

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