There’s been a lot of speculation that Romney, now that he’s the general election candidate, is going to run more to the center now that he’s finally over the Santorum hump. That’s basic common sense and a typical pattern in most elections, but there are some folks who are dissenting and saying that Romney is going to be the exception to the rule. Paul Waldman lays out the case:
One of the many differences between Bush and Romney is that conservatives trusted Bush. Even if he presented himself as “a different kind of Republican” (i.e. one who wasn’t so cruel when it came to social issues), they knew that he was one of them. There was no doubt in their minds about where Bush stood on most things, and on most things he was with them. With Romney, they’ll doubt everything.
He goes on to explain that because of this concern, Romney is going to be constantly pushed around by conservatives, and really unable to distance themselves from him without creating a backlash in right wing media. Honestly, we can only hope, because I’m still pretty certain that conservatives are better at falling in line than liberals typically give them credit for. (It’s the “everyone else is like me” problem; liberals don’t fall in line very easily, so we assume that’s true of conservatives, but it’s not.) Still, there’s now evidence for Waldman’s theory:
Chancellor Jerry Falwell, Jr. announced today that Gov. Mitt Romney will address Liberty University graduates at the 2012 Commencement ceremony to be held at 10 a.m. on Saturday, May 12, at Arthur L. Williams Stadium.
“We are delighted that Governor Romney will join us to celebrate Commencement with Liberty’s 2012 graduates,” said Liberty Chancellor Jerry Falwell, Jr. “This will be a historic event for Liberty University reminiscent of the visits of Governor, and then presidential candidate, Ronald Reagan to Liberty’s campus in 1980 and of President George H.W. Bush who spoke at Liberty’s 1990 Commencement ceremony.”
Of course, making an allegiance to Liberty is a big part of the standard Republican campaign, but it seems to me that it’s more politically toxic of a move than it was in the past. Before, Liberty didn’t really make the news much, despite being founded by Jerry Falwell, and so it was a good opportunity to pander to the Christian right without really getting the notice of the mainstream. But the Bush administration was heavily staffed by people who went to these fundie universities, drawing attention to how they’re basically shoddy places that don’t offer real education, but instead are about indoctrination.
I simply have to imagine that Romney really doesn’t want to have to go kiss the Falwell ring, but he feels he has no choice. Which is good news, actually, because it suggests he’s genuinely afraid that many fundamentalist Christians would rather stay home than vote for a Mormon. If that’s true, then two things are also true: 1) He won’t be able to stop trying to win them over and 2) a lot of them will sit this one out anyway. Fundies are notoriously hard to budge once they’ve got an idea in their head, and those who already think Romney is too much of the Other to be voted for are probably not going to change their minds. The only real question, then, is how many of them are seriously that wary of Romney. I’m skeptical that it’s a high number, but this decision from Romney’s camp suggests they believe that it’s high enough.