September 02, 2007

Former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney, a relatively nascent conservative, if his public profession of political faith is to be believed, may have just received an unexpected boost to his campaign by, of all people, the deposed Idaho state chairman of his presidential effort: departing Senator Larry Craig

As the entire free world now knows, Sen. Craig was arrested in an airport lavatory in Minneapolis, on June 11, after allegedly soliciting sex with an undercover police officer, who was responding to public complaints that this locale was a breeding ground for homosexual trysts.  (The Senator, as of this writing, continues to maintain he did not seek to have sex with that officer, Sgt. David Karsnia; Craig’s protestations aside, it should be emphasized he did later plead guilty to a charge of “€œdisorderly conduct.”€) 

Immediately, one could almost hear the writing staffs of The Daily Show, The Tonight Show, The Late Night Show, et al. gearing up for several rounds of their favorite pastime”€”drubbing morally-lapsed Republicans for hypocrisy.  And who can blame them?  In recent times, it would seem that the Grand Old Party has gone out of its way to provide fodder for the newer generation of H. L. Mencken-wannabes. 

Craig’s one-time Senate colleague, David Vitter, a stalwart of conservative, pro-family causes, was recently exposed as having found succor in the bosom of one of DC’s high-priced ladies of the night.  Mark Foley, of course, the former GOP congressman from Florida, was “€œouted”€ by news outlets just prior to the 2006 mid-term elections as both a homosexual and a wily admirer of young male congressional pages. 

And does anyone remember Duke Cunningham?  This Top Gun Republican found his way into the pokey after accepting bribes from defense contractors, as well as limousine rides and hotel rooms staffed with prostitutes. 

This frightfully prosaic rash of sexual indiscretions among Republicans has cast an unflattering light on the Party of traditional marriage, and returns us to Mitt Romney and his fledgling presidential campaign.  Alone among top-tier contenders for the GOP nomination, Mr. Romney can lay credible claim to being the values candidate who practices what he preaches.  What remains to be seen is if this professional financier can make political capital of this asset.

An adherent to a religion that openly practiced polygamy up until 1890, Mr. Romney gingerly vaunts that he is still married to his first wife”€”his high-school sweetheart, no less.  This stands in marked contrast to his opponents Rudy Giuliani, John McCain, and Fred Thompson”€”who, between the three of them, have racked up seven marriages over the past three decades. 

Nowhere was this more obvious than in Ames, Iowa, at the recent straw poll.  Though Mr. Romney certainly paid his way to victory, he did so with a beaming, prodigious, and intact family in tow. 

Such a picture-perfect image must be unnerving to even the most flagrantly immodest of politicians”€”i.e., Newt Gingrich.  A coy non-candidate, whose fatal flaws and generational excesses more than easily match Hillary Clinton’s and her husband’s, Mr. Gingrich is married to wife number three; and, like Fred Thompson, he must contend with the “€œhubba-hubba”€ factor given that Mrs. Gingrich is significantly younger than he. 

Should the debate shift to a question of which presidential candidate can demonstrate greater personal stability (which is a codeword for “€œmorality”€), Mr. Romney”€”who is right now leading in Iowa and New Hampshire, but remains stagnate in the national polls”€”could very well begin to cut into Messrs. Giuliani’s and Thompson’s lead.  For this to happen, primary voters must forgive his past inconsistencies on paramount policy issues. 

Activists on the right still harbor doubts about Mr. Romney’s commitment to conservative principles; one wag snippily tagged him a “€œLatter-Day Conservative.”€  Of course, his prompt and unqualified denunciation of Craig’s “€œdisgusting”€ actions might ingratiate him to some social-issue conservatives, a constituency he has been desperately courting. 

While the voice of the Religious Right has been largely hushed this campaign cycle, Evangelicals and church-going Roman Catholics remain essential to winning the Republican nomination and the national election.

Should party loyalists get their fill of turning on their television sets and seeing “€œRepublicans Gone Wild,”€ Gov. Mitt Romney might just be able to emerge as the darling of religious conservatives.  There’s something to be said for clean living, after all. 

Nicholas Sanchez is a professional fund-raiser and conservative activist. He can be reached at


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