February 11, 2008
In the wake of Huckabee’s crushing success in Kansas, Mitt Romney may be questioning his willingness to suspend his campaign in the name of wartime solidarity. The great Romney-led rebellion was just beginning, fueled by talk radio and activist loathing of McCain, when its figurehead declared, much to the consternation and shock of his most loyal followers, that he would withdraw from the race for the good of party and country. There was something admirable in this, until you considered that he had verified every complaint against his lukewarm, opportunistic conversions to conservative views by yielding so easily. Only days before he was vowing to fight for the “heart and soul of the Republican Party,” imperiled by the McCain Menace, and by the end of the week he had made the very rational, calculating decision that continued resistance in the name of principle was not cost effective. Very businesslike. It was also exactly why conservatives could never have trusted him to advance any of the things he purported to defend and support and why many were foolish to endow him with convictions and virtues that he did not possess. It is true that he would never have been one of these adamant, ideological figures who refused to pay attention to changing circumstances, but neither would he have been a reliable supporter of any of the things that the conservatives who placed their faith in him expected him to support.
Only moments before his withdrawal, radio talk show host Laura Ingraham was declaring him to be the “conservative’s conservative” and likening him to Ronald Reagan (naturally) in 1975 on the eve of his challenge to Gerald Ford, discovering in the following minutes that her support and her praise had been almost entirely misplaced. Viewed as a very thin silver lining of an incredibly dark, looming cloud, Romney’s defeats and withdrawal preserved conservatives from rallying around another deeply flawed standard-bearer as the defender of last resort against John McCain. Eight years ago, conservatives believed they had found “one of their own” in George Bush, either revealing their poor judgement or their deep confusion, and calamitous results for the fortunes of conservatives have followed. For their deliverance from being linked themselves to yet another pandering moderate, conservatives should be grateful to Romney’s concern to preserve his future political viability for the next cycle and his complete unwillingness to go down fighting for the convictions that gullible people have believed were genuine.