Don’t Fall For “Myth Romney”

This morning I sat down to write a letter to the Mitt skeptics, especially my fellow evangelicals.  Yet it proved a nettlesome task.  There are so many misconceptions about Mitt, the field is so littered with attacks and misinformation, that one has to clear the field of the falsehoods before one can forge ahead and show Mitt Romney as he actually is.  So I’ll publish the open letter tomorrow.

For today, let’s distinguish between Myth Romney and Mitt Romney.  Myth Romney is a co-creation of a peculiar coalition of media and political liberals who fear that Romney would beat Obama and conservative activists and commentators who support other primary candidates.  According to them, Myth Romney is a closet liberal pretending to be a conservative; the things he said in an election contest against Ted Kennedy in 1994 are more revealing of his true opinions than the things he’s done and said in the 17 years since.  Ergo, Myth Romney is not a conservative, and not acceptable to conservatives.  He would not bring strong conservative leadership to Washington; he would bring, at best, a lukewarm commitment to center-center-right mushiness and a milquetoast commitment to moderation and compromise.  Also, as a Mormon, and as a moderate, he can never evoke the passions of the Right, and the enthusiasm gap would kill him against Obama.

Myth Romney Part 1: Romney is Unacceptable to Conservatives.

Whenever you hear this slogan, you’re being manipulated.  Don’t believe the lie.

With “Mitt Romney is unacceptable to conservatives,” Right-Wing rabble rousers like Red State’s Erick Erickson — who have shamed themselves this primary cycle with their relentlessly superficial caricaturing of Romney and their equally superficial cheerleading for a parade of Not-Mitt candidates — have attempted to tell a demonstrable falsehood so repeatedly that it becomes a part of the mental landscape of social conservatism.

If I’m not a conservative, then the category of “conservative” has so contracted that it means nothing more than “Erick Erickson and the people he likes.”  I’ve written in defense of the pro-life movement (here and here), in defense of traditional marriage (here and here), in defense of the Tea Party movement (herehere and here), in defense of Sarah Palin, in defense of fiscal conservatism, in defense of moral and social conservatism — and so on and on.  Yet I not only accept Mitt.  I admire him, support him wholeheartedly, and thank God we have a candidate of his quality, character and expertise at this extraordinarily important moment in our nation’s history.  So here’s one conservative who finds Mitt Romney more than “acceptable” — and the only folks in my circle of friends who are more conservative than myself, people who have dedicated their lives to activism on behalf of (mostly social) conservative causes, are the founders and supporters of Evangelicals for Mitt.

Still not impressed?  Fine.  How about people we all know?  Are you honestly telling me that John Thune, Chris Christie, Norm Coleman, Jim Talent, and Mike Leavitt — all of whom are criss-crossing Iowa on Romney’s behalf right now — are not conservatives?  Seriously? How about columnist and radio talk show hosts Hugh Hewitt and Michael Medved?  Or John Hinderaker of the hugely respected Powerline blog (like the now-retired Paul Mirengoff in the last cycle)?  Or Ramesh Ponnuru from the National Review?  Or how about the editorial board of the National Review (read: Rich Lowry), which endorsed Romney last time and still makes his case?  Or the editorial board of the Washington Examiner?  Or how about Governors and former Governors, Presidents and former nominees like Tim PawlentyJohn SununuGeorge H. W. Bush and Bob Dole?  Or Senators Mark KirkRichard BurrElizabeth Dole, and Mike Johanns?

Granted, some of those figures are “establishment conservatives” and not “movement conservatives,” but this is like complaining that it’s only the conservatives who have won national and statewide offices, and who have gained actual government experience at a high level, who support Mitt Romney — a strange complaint indeed.  And movement conservatives were awful excited about Nikki Haley and Christine O’Donnell and Chris Christie, all of whom have endorsed Romney.  Or how about this one?  Ann Coulter.  Coulter argues that Mitt is the best candidate to beat Obama and the best candidate to confront our biggest and most urgent challenges.  Is Ann Coulter — friggin’ Ann Coulter, for goodness’ sake — not conservative now?  You’ve got to be kidding me.  Let’s put this meme to bed.

Myth Romney Part 2: We Need to Send a Bull into the Beltway China Shop.

I understand the frustration.  For those on the outside, it’s tempting to look at our elected representatives in Washington and think the whole Beltway bureaucracy is so diseased that we need someone who will lop off the seventy gangrenous limbs of the federal government and then, somehow (this is never quite clear), preserve or recreate a new system that is still effective in discharging the true constitutional duties of the federal government but leaves a much smaller footprint on the American economy and our liberties.

This was a part of the appeal of Rick Perry.  He was a two-fisted political brawler who would topple the old order — while Romney seemed more likely to challenge the old order to a game of Scrabble.  Mitt just looks establishment.  He’s tall and handsome, fit and, well, presidential.  He speaks as though he received an exquisite education, which in fact he did.  He’s always pressed and perfectly coiffed.  Romney’s a technocrat, and after the last five years we have a justified fear of technocrats.

But, for one thing, I’m not convinced our elected leaders are so much feckless and corrupt as they are merely bogged down by the complications of real-world responsibility and the slow process of compromise and checks-and-balances that our Constitution enshrines.  For another, this is identity politics at its worst.  Don’t hate Mitt because he’s beautiful.  (That’s a joke, folks.)  Don’t oppose Mitt because he seems less like the guy you’d share a beer with and more like the CEO of the beer company.  We might just need the CEO right now.  The conservative predilection for an ordinary guy, a common man of common sense, has not returned dividends.  Romney is an uncommon man of common sense — yes, a technocrat, but with all his competence and expertise pointed in the right direction by the right ideology.  And while his policy proposals are sometimes wonkish, they would make dramatic changes to the federal government in orderly and pragmatic ways.

There’s nothing conservative, nothing at all, about burning the old order to the ground.  We don’t need an arsonist.  We need a turnaround artist, someone who will have the experience, the wisdom, and the people skills to coordinate a thousand incremental changes into a dramatic transformation for the better.  Setting off explosives are more likely to sink the Ship of State than they are to turn it around.

Myth Romney Part 3: Conservatives, Especially Evangelicals, will not Support Mitt with Enthusiasm

After all, haven’t 15 percent of evangelicals said they wouldn’t vote for a Mormon?  The answer to this question is: no.  Fifteen percent of evangelicals have said that a candidate’s Mormonism makes them less likely to vote for him.  In the primary, that could make a difference, especially in states like Iowa and South Carolina.  But in the general election, it has virtually no effect.

The reason is simple: According to Michael Dimock of the Pew Research Center, “The people for whom [Romney’s] faith is a potential sticking point are so anti-Obama that that’s the bigger factor.  The very same people for whom Mormonism is maybe of some concern are the same people who most vigorously oppose Obama.”  Pew found that 91% of white evangelicals who are Republican or lean-Republican would vote for Mitt Romney over Obama.  8 out of 10 said they would support Romney “strongly.”  And that’s before the inevitable consolidation behind the GOP candidate, before the convention coronation, and before all the ads attacking Obama’s record.  Romney is more conservative than McCain, and more conservative than George W. Bush.  Conservatives lined up behind both, and faced with the prospect of a second Obama term they would support Romney with considerable vim and vigor.

* * * * *

I’ll address some of the other misconceptions when I build the positive case, tomorrow, for why I think Mitt Romney is precisely the right person for this moment in our national story.  Check back tomorrow.

Browse Our Archives

Follow Us!

What Are Your Thoughts?leave a comment
  • If you’re going to write a defense of Mitt Romney, you need to do more than what you did.

    Here’s what you did:

    1) You claimed to be an evangelical and then said you liked Mitt.
    2) You listed a bunch of moderate conservatives who like Mitt.
    3) You called people who have problems with Mitt’s record names.

    That’s not a good defense. The right way to try to defend Mitt Romney is not with hand-waving and arguing from authority. You need to list the objections that people have with Mitt and then show where, in his actual public record, that he is innocent of the charges.

    For example, here are videos showing Mitt’s views on abortion, gun control, global warming, stem cell research, immigration, etc. in his own words:

    In this article, what you’ve done is tried to give a book review of a book you haven’t actually read. That’s F quality work. Now go back and read the book and try again.

    • Timothy Dalrymple

      No, WK, the outline should have been pretty clear:

      CONTRA the claim that “Romney is unacceptable to conservatives,” I pointed to a broad coalition of conservatives (evangelicals or not didn’t enter the picture) who not only “accept” but support Romney. I didn’t call anyone names, but I did call the analysis from folks like Erick Erickson misleading and superficial — which it absolutely is.

      CONTRA the claim that “We need to send a bull into the China shop,” I argued that we need someone more savvy, someone who can coordinate a thousand incremental changes into dramatic long-term change.

      And CONTRA the claim that evangelicals will not unite behind Romney, I pointed to the falsehood of this meme (at least projecting from current studies) in the general election.

      It seems pretty straightforward to me. I know that we get all passionate about our guys in the primary, but you’re criticizing the post for not accomplishing what it was never meant to accomplish. It addressed three specific claims. More will be forthcoming.

    • Nayajja

      No, Wintery Knight, Tim Dalrymple has addressed criticisms of Romney on the same level as many of the people trying to defeat Romney. These are the people who relentlessly apply labels that have no meaning but sound bad. Tim explained his purpose in doing this–he feels the need to deal with the mindless negative epitaphs that are being thrown around before he can address more substantive and thoughtful concerns.

      1) He is not saying that a good reason to like Mitt Romney is because Tim Dalrymple is a conservative and he likes Mitt. He is saying the argument that conservatives will never vote for Mitt is foolish.

      2) His listing a number of conservatives who support Mitt is simply demonstrating the falsity of the argument that no conservatives will ever support Romney. You yourself play the intellectually dishonest game of shouting that no conservatives will support Mitt by discounting all the conservatives who support Mitt as “moderate.” Your logic is that if somebody likes Mitt Romney, by definition, they must be moderate, and we all know that moderate is bad.

      3) Calling people names? Where? Well, he called Erick Erickson a right-wing rabble rouser, and I guess that is calling somebody a name, but he calls Ann Coulter “friggin” so I guess it balances out!

      And, as long as you are claiming to make a comprehensive list of the points Mr. Dalrymple is making, you should address his last point: It is unproductive dreaming to think that somebody can turn our huge federal government around in a “Mr. Smith Goes to Washington” moment. The ship is too big to turn like a little motorboat. My observation is that too many conservatives apply the pejorative “moderate” to anyone who understands that you have to work within a system with hundreds of other politicians, and that there is no way to accomplish the goal by being a bull in a china-shop.

  • Please also respond to the economists at the Libertarian Cato Institute, who do not like Romneycare:

    And article:

    You need to respond to criticisms from intellectuals and highlight where in Romney’s record we can see evidence that he is a social conservative, fiscal conservative, and foreign policy conservative. Not in his rhetoric when he is on the campaign trail. You need to look at his actual record for the evidence.

    • DougH

      Interesting that someone that is supposed to be a flip-flopper has refused to say that Romneycare was a mistake, isn’t it? Not that it matters, since he has repeatedly stated that Obamacare is unconstitutional at the federal level and needs to be repealed, that one of his first acts as president would be to give a waiver to every state, and that the solution to our Medicaid problem is to block-grant it to the states and put our fifty political laboratories to work finding solutions. You know, the fundamental constitutional principle of Federalism that has been under assault from the Left for generations?

  • ECM

    Congratulations! It’s rare, when constructing an argument, that one manages to get ad hominem, appeals to authority, and tu quoque all in the same diatribe, but my hat is off to you sir! You win…nothing at all.

    • Timothy Dalrymple

      And you, sir, need remedial reading comprehension.

      Appealing to authority is saying ‘X is correct because Person P, who has authority, says it’s correct.’ In refuting the proposition that “Romney is unacceptable to conservatives,” pointing to conservatives who support Romney is simply evidence, not an appeal to authority. I’m not sure where you think you find a tu quoque argument. As for ad hominem…do you mean my comments about Erick Erickson? Scratching my head here…

  • Here is an overview of his fiscal positions and record from a well-known, respected pro-growth group:

    Please respond to his record on fiscal matters in your next post.

  • John Haas

    I’m astounded. After all the sturm und drang of the Tea Party ruckus, we’re going to get the most moderate guy up there. As Steve Benen put it, “We’re talking about a French-speaking Mormon vulture capitalist named Willard, who used to support abortion rights, gay rights, gun control, “amnesty” for undocumented immigrants, and combating climate change. He distanced himself from Reagan, attended Planned Parenthood fundraisers, and helped create the blueprint for the Affordable Care Act. He supported taxpayer-funded abortions and taxpayer-financed medical care for undocumented immigrants.” But, hey, I’ve been watching these folk for awhile. Probably shouldn’t be astounded.

    • Timothy Dalrymple

      I would say that Huntsman and Newt are both more moderate — or at least, Huntsman’s more moderate and Newt’s less consistent. But as for Steve Benen’s comment, the fact that he’s French-speaking and Mormon are irrelevant to me. The fact that he’s a capitalist (“vulture” is silly here) is a plus. He’s consistently opposed gay marriage and the expansion of nondiscrimination protections to sexual orientation. His actions have been consistently pro-life (despite protestations to the contrary from his political opponents) since his conversion on the issue in 2004, at considerable cost to the support of his Governorship in Massachusetts. As for gun control, I think we could do with some reasonable gun control measures without losing our Second Amendment rights. Climate change: my own views have gone back and forth on this, and I’ve come to a nuanced position not unlike Romney’s present one. The rest are more or less the same: take away context, use some leading language, splice together positions held at particular moments of time over the course of an evolving political career, and it’s easy to create misleading impressions.

      But you should be happy. Maybe the Republican electorate is more nuanced, and less extreme, than you had thought 🙂

      • John Haas

        Right–the point isn’t that Romney’s a “bad” candidate because of those attributes–it’s that he’s the polar opposite of everything the Tea Party has been agitating for. And that’s . . . kind of amazing.

        • Young John

          Romney can’t possibly be the “polar opposite” of the Tea Party (actually “tea parties”). Maybe Mr. Haas’ enthusiastic interest in global warming has led to a case of heat stroke.

        • Apollo

          I am the tea party, and I support Mitt Romney.

          The tea party is against big government, big spending and wants jobs. Mitt wants to cut government, cut spending and create jobs.

          If you think the tea party is about one particular thing because someone making money claiming to be “tea party” says something, well, they aren’t me. The tea party is a bunch of people who want less government.

  • Tim

    Romney and Huntsman, given a chance, are the only adults running in the primaries

  • Ronald Frederick

    The various social issues mentioned are non-starters. The only real issue is the economy and turning the government around. Romney is the only candidate competent enough to have a chance for success in this arena. Who cares about his view on abortion? The President does not have the ability to control this issue anyway. The Supreme Court made this decision in the 1970s. Get over it. Let’s work on issues where we can actually accomplish something.

  • Ronald Frederick

    As for Romneycare, why do we care about that? If that is something the people of Massachusetts want and like, good for them. Other States can make their own choices. By the way, for those people who criticize these plans, what is your plan to reduce the explosion in health care cost in this country and get everyone covered by some type of insurance? All I hear is criticism and no alternative plan. I’m all ears to hear anyone with a plan that will work.

  • D Pyle

    I know that this sentiment will seem simplistic and unsophisticated but here goes. I would vote for a Great Dane or any other member of the animal kingdom over Barack Obama. We can all express our concerns about a candidate but let’s not take our eye off of the prize; the defeat of Barack H. Obama. Period! Four more years of the current occupant of the WH and the only representative republic in the history of the world, WHERE THE PEOPLE RULE, will be no more.

    • John Haas

      I hear he’s going to steal Christmas, too. Once he’s re-elected, the knives come out. And watch for round two of “Cash for Clunkers,” too.

      The horror . . .

  • Indy

    For all those in the (quickly becoming irrelevant) Eric Ericson camp who insist Romney is not a conservative and will lose to Obama, please show me anything Romney has said or documented he will do AS PRESIDENT that proves he is not a conservative.

    Yes, yes your next statement is going to be “sure, but I don’t trust him to do what he says he will do.”

    Well then, which other front runner do you trust to do everything and exactly what they said they would do? “Gov’t solutions” Gingrich? “What day is this” Perry? (Paul is a bad anti-semite, CT joke so don’t even go there). And I do like Santorum but he stands little chance of beating the current golfer-in-chief.

    I was voting conservative before Ericson was born. Sometimes we get fooled. I don’t know if Romney will stand by his word as President. But he has enough good, solid documentation of what his (conservative) policies will be that he will be held accountable.

    Pro-life was the issue that gave me the most problem with Romney and his apparent flip-flop on that issue. Until I understood the context which I can relate to somewhat. Romney and I are the same age. We grew up when abortions were illegal. The problem of unwed mothers was dealt with far more humanely than infanticide. Yes, there were illegal abortions but relatively rare. Now suppose you knew a young female back then that opted for an illegal abortion and died as a result. Is it possible to be both pro-life and at the same time pro-abortion if it would avoid the kind of tradegy mentioned? As a devout Mormon (I am not Mormon), I believe Romney has always believed in the sanctity of life as do I in my beliefs. But I can easily concede that the tragedy of a death of some female close to me at a younger age might have persuaded me that in some circumstances preventing the loss of a loved one might take precedence over the loss of a fetus. So what appears as a flip-flop on Romney’s part is rather a moral dilemma instead. That Romney is now and has always been pro-life I have no doubt. And I am confident that he would seek to end legalized abortion and replace it with viable alternatives from the private sector.

    Romneycare was a bad idea. Romney still stands by his belief it was ok for Mass. On the other hand his position on Obamacare is straight forward. Repeal it, ASAP. Does anybody really believe this is a trick on his part to get elected and then change his position? Really?

    I could go on and on with his policies if he becomes president. They are all rock solid conservative (try reading them Ericson). And I come back to my point in the first place, you can declare you don’t trust him to deliver on his conservative policies but you can’t say they aren’t conservative. So which other “conservative” out there do you trust? And can they beat Obama?

  • Would Ronald Frederick and other “economic conservative only” types advise the social conservatives to forget the Republican Party because they will never get anything in exchange for their support? That seems to be the message. Is nominal opposition to abortion and homosexual recruiting in the schools sufficient since the Supreme Court which made heaven and earth has already decided these things?

  • Tagg

    There is no myth to Mitt. Social Conservatives are the group which has opposed Romney. David French’s group is an arm of the Romney campaign. Sad, isn’t it French cannot be honest enough to say so.

    If you ask Mitt for his income tax to be released, you will get arrested.
    Romney has refused to release his tax records, refused to give names of his bundlers. Many Americans do not know of Romney’s links to an on going corruption probe in Michigan, the state Romney grew up in and many of his family members remain living in.

    The Romney’s family personal investment firm of Solamere needs to be transparent. The Romney family formed Solamere investment firm for their family and close friends use. Solamere is tied to the Romney campaign. The Romeny’s formed two different but linked companies out of Solamere, Solamere Advisers, its secondary group, has people from Stanford which are under criminal charges and investigations for scamming investors as part of a Ponzi scheme.
    John Rakolta Jr. CEO of Walbridge along with Scott Romney are National financial co-chairs for Romney’s campaign. Rakolta is linked to the pay and play under investigation in a Detroit Corruption probe. Wayne county executive Fanico, has refused to hand over the bid and contracts of Rakolta’s in a corruption probe on a jail slated to be built. Terry Mullins, was working with Rakolta on the building of the jail, and Mullins is rumored to have been having an affair with Rakolta. Mullins was working for Wayne County when the bid to build the jail went to Rakolta. Mullins has donated money for Rommey’s campaign switching from the Democratic Party, to Republican Party. Scott Romney is also a director for Solamere.
    Read more on Romney corruption at:
    The Real Mitt Romney the Weather-vane Candidate

    • Timothy Dalrymple

      Evangelicals For Mitt is not an arm of the Romney campaign. I can tell you this with complete confidence. EFM is a group of people who believe that Romney is the best guy for the Presidency — and they’re willing to put their time and resources behind that conviction. There’s nothing nefarious in that.

      I don’t know how Rakolta is “linked” (as you say) to this case in Detroit, but Rakolta is a highly respected CEO of a highly respected company.

      And let me try this: Mitt, release your income taxes! Now let’s see if I get arrested.

  • Frank Killen


    • Timothy Dalrymple

      Whoa! The capital letters are hurting my ears!

  • Paul on the Cape

    Christe, both “No New Taxes” HW Bush, and No Child Left Behind/Prescription Drug a la Ted Kennedy GW Bush, Dole..are conservatives? Plueeezzze. They are social liberal, big spending, big debt, bigger government, “We Can Do Socialism Better” Republicans. Once known as Rockefeller Republicans. Mittens once even said he not only wasn’t a smaller government, free(er) enterprise, lower tax Reagan Republican, but he even through in HW Bush as too much, too radical. ( Of course what can you expect from a then street urchin of 40 years old, Stanford, Bain Capital, Harvard MBA and Law. How would the poor thing ever know that free people and free markets would work what with the family business of Detroit and his Dad’s AMC experience, not to mention still existing managerial paradise of the Communist states? Or was just flip flopping then, or was he a extremely well educated business man that was lying for lust for political office? )

  • The likes of Dole, Pawlenty, and George H.W. Bush aren’t “establishment conservatives”. DeMint is an “establishment conservative”. So are Toomey and Rubio. But, Dole, Pawlenty, and George H.W. Bush are moderates. Certainly nothing more. Sometimes much less.

    • Timothy Dalrymple

      I wouldn’t say that Pawlenty is an establishment conservative, but it’s hard to get more establishment than Dole and H. W. Bush. DeMint is more a movement conservative, but a powerful one, but we’re getting into the semantics of the terms. The point was that, yes, some of these folks are moderates, and very much shaped by the Beltway mindset, but that Romney also gets support from the likes of Haley and Christie and O’Donnell.

  • Furthermore, the only record that we have to judge Romney on is his record as governor. His key policy decisions were awful. He governed center-left. And I don’t want to hear about how Massachusetts is a liberal state, so Romney “had no choice” but to sacrifice conservative values. That dog don’t hunt. If you’re a conservative, then I expect you to act likewise. I’m not looking for perfection, but I am looking for a candidate with a record that I can be proud of. It’s not Romney’s, that’s for sure.

    • Timothy Dalrymple

      If he had governed center-left, he would not have had to use the line-item veto 800 times in four years. I thought his policy decisions were by-and-large right, given the circumstances in which he was governing. And of course it’s relevant to any assessment of his record that 87% of the legislature was Democrat. If you’re a conservative, you should move the ball in the conservative direction as far as possible. Of course context matters. If you’ve read defenses of Romney’s record and not been persuaded, then good for you and that’s fine. If you’re just relying on construals of his record from his opponents or from certain talk show hosts or etc., then I’d recommend you read more sympathetic articulations of his record.

  • Agkcrbs

    I only want to see what happens when the former competitors and “movement” pundits realise their failure and stand up to endorse Mitt. Will the anti-Mitt mob still insist on its own infallibility? Will they spontaneously combust in a horrible, bloody flash? Will they survive in a zombie state and continue their mindless rampage? Will they immediately register as Democrats? Will they tear off their own faces like rubber and reveal their true identity as aliens, or perhaps Obama clones, and proceed to enact “Order 66”, to shoot every other Republican voter in the back? Will they possibly confess, as on the day of Pentecost, their earlier treachery against their own best interest, and be converted? All I can say is, keep your cameras ready.