The problem with Mitt Romney is not just that he’s a Mormon. And it’s not just that he is insufficiently conservative. As George Will argues, it’s because he tries to straddle all issues and seldom comes down to a consistent position. After describing his various waffling positions on ethanol subsidies, bailouts, and state public employee unions, Will comes to the following conclusion:
Romney, supposedly the Republican most electable next November, is a recidivist reviser of his principles who is not only becoming less electable; he might damage GOP chances of capturing the Senate. Republican successes down the ticket will depend on the energies of the Tea Party and other conservatives, who will be deflated by a nominee whose blurry profile in caution communicates only calculated trimming.
Republicans may have found their Michael Dukakis, a technocratic Massachusetts governor who takes his bearings from “data” (although there is precious little to support Romney’s idea that in-state college tuition for children of illegal immigrants is a powerful magnet for such immigrants) and who believes elections should be about (in Dukakis’s words) “competence,” not “ideology.” But what would President Romney competently do when not pondering ethanol subsidies that he forthrightly says should stop sometime before “forever”? Has conservatism come so far, surmounting so many obstacles, to settle, at a moment of economic crisis, for this?
A Republican Dukakis! A governor of Massachusetts. Someone who looks good but has authenticity problems. Someone who promises competence, not ideology. Will’s characterization may say it all, including predicting the outcome should Romney, as seems likely, get the Republican nomination.