The longer he must battle Rick Santorum for the Republican nomination, the less time Mitt Romney will have to edge back toward the political mainstream for the general election. Romney continues to make that repositioning unnecessarily tricky by going farther—much farther—to the right than necessary, apparently in a desperate attempt to persuade the hardcore right that he really is “severely conservative.” That effort is now luring Romney into the land of straight-up demagoguery. For a month now, he’s been perpetuating the fallacy that the Obama birth-control mandate is an assault on “religious liberty” and First Amendment rights. Yesterday in Fargo, North Dakota, he laid a whole 'nother whopper on top of that: Asked how he would protect Second Amendment rights, Romney endorsed the conspiracy theory that Obama is itching to come after everybody’s guns in his second term. If the president will “violate the conscience of the church” on contraception, Romney said, his next move is sure to be “an attack on the Second Amendment.” Romney didn’t stop there: He lifted a page out of the Tea Party handbook, claiming “the Tenth Amendment is the one most constantly under attack.” This is strange talk indeed for a candidate whose fundamental appeal is supposed to be his “electability.” After all, it’s one thing to reassure your party’s base that while you’re mainstream enough to win, you’re also conservative enough to deserve their votes against Obama in November. It’s quite another to embrace the paranoid fringe.

So They Say

“I have worn a garbage bag for rain gear myself.”

Romney, walking back his mockery of NASCAR fans for wearing plastic ponchos

Daily Meme: Mourning Breitbart

  • Sarah Palin: “He defended what was right. He defended the defenseless.”
  • National Review: “The Right has lost its Achilles.”
  • Rick Perry: “RIP 'O Mighty Warrior!”
  • Mitt Romney: “ ... brilliant entrepreneur, fearless conservative, loving husband and father.
  • Newt Gingrich: “He had great courage and creativity.”
  • Rick Santorum“What a huge loss in my opinion for our country and certainly for the conservative movement.”
  • Congressman Steve King: "His influence will be cascaded across this culture, I believe, in perpetuity, just like the influence of John Quincy Adams.”
  • Herman Cain: “He was my friend & I will miss him.”
  • Rep. Michele Bachmann: “Today we lost a true conservative and a man of conviction.”
  • David Frum: “Public figures are inescapably judged by their public actions. When those public actions are poisonous, the obituary cannot be pleasant reading.” 

What We're Writing

  • Patrick Caldwell analyzes the political upshot of the failed Blunt Bill: “Democrats have almost every Republican senator on record as siding with these fringe views.”
  • Jamelle Bouie writes that Romney needs to win Ohio so he can begin his pivot to the center.

What We're Reading

Poll of the Day

While Santorum leads by 21 points in the Super Tuesday state of Tennessee, Rasmussen now shows Romney up 16 points nationally.


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