Mitt Romney ran to the right in this cycle’s republican primary, and now, ever so slightly he’s readjusting his policies back to the moderate that they were as governor of Massachusetts. But can we blame him for this seemingly reprehensible action? In primaries it has almost become a necessity to “rally the base” of partisan support and appeal to those who hold strong partisan beliefs. Why? Because those are the people who vote in primary elections. Those who have a more vested interest in the party are more likely to vote, and more often than not, these people are ideologically in the extreme.
It’s interesting to see that candidates who fall on the extreme side of either ideology are more likely to win primaries. From King’ article, Ideological Extremity and the Primary Sources of Polarization, “our finding that ideological extremity is a good predictor of electoral victory, but not of vote share itself, is in keeping with the findings of Canes-Wrone (2002), who arrive at the same conclusion.” This means that candidates must appeal to extremism and shun moderation in order to make it past the primaries.
So, what did Mitt do during the primaries? He ran away from the bipartisan policies that made him a relatively successful governor. In Robert Draper’s New York Times piece, The Mitt Romney That Might Have Been, a senior staff member for Ted Kennedy, David Bowen, said “Everyone thought at the time that Romney’s success in forging a bipartisan compromise on health care was actually a thing that he would ultimately run on, not run away from.” This wasn’t the only policy that Romney changed up, environment policies, women’s rights issues, along with a multitude of other stances shifted to the right as Romney weighed the possibility of running for national office.
These actions demonstrated a national ambition and understanding of the future of party politics. The following quote from Draper’s article shows that Romney knew what he was doing when altering his moderate/liberal policies, “’Romneys are, by nature, an adventurous breed,’ Mitt Romney proclaimed with no apparent irony in his 2004 book “Turnaround.” Today that assertion is hard to square with the author’s stiff persona and his risk-averse path to the presidency. But Romney’s appetite for boldness marks his governorship, as does his sudden loss of that appetite; and even when policy risk-taking gave way to presidential ambition, perhaps it could be said that Romney was ahead of his time: years before the emergence of the Tea Party, he could see where the Republican Party was headed, and with an audacious turn to the right the Massachusetts governor was there waiting for it.”
There you have it, Romney ran to the right to win, but now with the national election looming, he’s begun to creep back towards a moderate stance. The most recent and in my opinion most stark example of this was the third presidential debate, where Romney agreed with Obama on a significant number of issues, unheard of in this situation. Romney agreed with the president so much that Glenn Beck, notorious conservative radio host tweeted the following:
He’s trying to come back around to the center, which he knows gives him a greater chance of being elected, a move that conservatives are lambasting him for. But Mitt Romney has done this out of necessity, he’s done it to win, so should we blame him or the system that he has to deal with?