The rightward trek of Mitt Romney has been the Manifest Destiny of the GOP campaign. The more Rick Santorum and Newt Gingrich hoard the evangelical and ultra-conservative vote, the more pundits and politicos say that Romney has no choice but to continue shuffling away from his past policy positions to make himself look more appetizing to “the base.” Last night’s third-place finishes in Alabama and Mississippi did nothing to change the conventional wisdom. Romney will clearly have to pick a vice-presidential nominee who satiates the hard right. But the idea that Romney is left with no choice but to shed his remaining moderate cred to appease the far right may prove to be as overblown as the fear (or, in some circles, joyous anticipation) of a contested convention. It’s easy to forget amid the nonstop national coverage, but GOP primary voters aren’t the whole Republican Party (nor, of course, do they resemble most Republican-leaning independents). Prior to yesterday, only 11.5 percent of the party had voted so far. Romney, for all the flaws in his campaign, has been wily about one big thing: He hasn’t taken many bold conservative stands, or detailed and coherent stands of any kind, on major policy issues. As Benjy Sarlin pointed out yesterday at Talking Points Memo, Romney’s platform has a Mad Libs-esque charm: On entitlements, on the economy, on taxes, on foreign policy, he’s left plenty of blanks to fill in for the fall. Which is yet another reason that Democrats shouldn’t be celebrating prematurely. A moderate-but-still-conservative-enough version of Romney could still be in the cards.
So They Say
“Whoever said that should be flogged.”
—Gingrich spokesperson R.C. Hammond, who told The Wall Street Journal last week that Gingrich had to win both Alabama and Mississippi to stay afloat.
Daily Meme: La Plus Ca Change
- March 6, Gingrich: “We are going to go on to Tampa and win the nomination.”
- March 13, Gingrich: “We're going to leave Alabama and Mississippi with a substantial number of delegates, increasing our total going towards Tampa."
- March 5: “Republican presidential candidate Rick Santorum says Mitt Romney has failed to ‘close the deal’ with voters.”
- March 14: “Santorum Says Romney Can’t Close ‘Deal’ with Republicans.”
- March 7, Romney campaign: “It is mathematically impossible for either Rick Santorum or Newt Gingrich to get the nomination, no matter what they say.”
- March 14, Romney campaign: “Tuesday’s results actually increased Governor Romney’s delegate lead, while his opponents only moved closer to their date of mathematical elimination.”
- March 6, Lawrence O’Donnell: Romney could be “the weakest nominee they’ve ever delivered.”
- March 14, John Dickerson: “Romney looks weaker with every contest.”
- March 7, Newsmax: “Gingrich Advisor: Romney Should Quit Race.”
- March 13, Paul Begala: “Let me be the first to call on Mitt Romney to get out of the race.”
What We're Writing
- Even in the age of Obama, Jamelle Bouie reports, there’s a glass ceiling for the most ambitious black politicians.
- Harold Meyerson: “Full up with delusions of grandeur, Gingrich soldiers on.”
What We're Reading
- Democratic ideologies clash in House races.
- Steve Kornacki on Obama’s March Madness brackets: “a fitting microcosm of his presidency.”
- Chart: In terms of delegates, Romney is getting his money’s worth.
- Nate Silver explains why Santorum underperforms in polls.
- Robert Draper profiles the genesis of Mitt Romney's political ambitions.
- A super PAC spin on the Why I'm Leaving ______ meme:
- “The first lesson you learn as a pollster is that people are stupid."
- Occupy Romney.
Poll of the Day
Twenty-six percent of Americans say they’re satisfied with the way things are going in the country—the highest since May 2011, after Osama bin Laden’s assassination.