National Review, the hoary old man of American conservative journalism, has with controlled enthusiasm anointed Mitt Romney its presidential candidate. The magazine’s argument is structured around the need to keep “the coalition” together–that’s the quondam Reagan coalition of social, economic, and national security conservatives, so called. Romney stands as the only guy who doesn’t, or whom the magazine believes shouldn’t, alienate any one of those constituencies.
Of course, Romney’s problem is with the social conservatives, viz, the evangelicals, who don’t like his having switched positions on gay rights and abortion and don’t like his Mormonism. National Review slides over the switcheroos, and makes brisk work of the religion problem:
For some people, Romney’s Mormonism is still a barrier. But we are not electing a pastor. The notion that he will somehow be controlled by Salt Lake City or engaged in evangelism for his church is outlandish. He deserves to be judged on his considerable merits as a potential president. As he argued in his College Station speech, his faith informs his values, which he has demonstrated in both the private and public sectors. In none of these cases have any specific doctrines of his church affected the quality of his leadership. Romney is an exemplary family man and a patriot whose character matches the high office to which he aspires.
No evangelical scruples here.
As for Huckabee, he gets the boot for alienating everyone but the social conservatives:
Rudolph Giuliani did extraordinary work as mayor of New York and was inspirational on 9/11. But he and Mike Huckabee would pull apart the coalition from opposite ends: Giuliani alienating the social conservatives, and Huckabee the economic (and foreign-policy) conservatives. A Republican party that abandoned either limited government or moral standards would be much diminished in the service it could give the country.
The big question here has to do with the nature of this “coalition.” Inside the Beltway, the three species of conservative may be roughly on a par. But in the wider Republican world, well, just as in the Middle Ages there were those who fought, those who prayed, and those who worked the land, so in the GOP there are those who do the money, those who do the words, and those who do the votes. It’s the social conservatives who do the votes, and that’s why Huckabee is where he is today. Of course, a lot of people who vote Republican don’t really fall into any of these camps. And money and words can go a long way towards persuading them to vote one way and not another. But if the social conservatives have found their guy, he’s not going to be easy to stop at the pass.