Tsongas denial

As you may have heard, Mitt Romney now claims that his 1992 Presidential Primary vote for Democrat Paul Tsongas was a calculated strategic vote, to help put an easier-to-beat candidate on the ticket against George Bush the elder. Just one more slap at Massachusetts on his way out the door, I suppose.

Romney's explanation of his vote is obviously nonsense, and it just shows how far away from the mainstream Republican Presidential candidates feel they have to go to get the nomination. Look at McCain's new abortion position, among other pandering to the right, along with Giuliani's attempt to distance himself from his own successful gun-control policies.

As the GOP candidates try to sell themselves to the hard right, they will alienate more and more independents and moderate Republicans, ensuring that fewer of them participate in the GOP primaries, making the nomination even more dependent upon ultra-conservatives, which will make the candidates pander even more to the right, and on and on. By the time one of these guys gets the nomination, he'll be somewhere to the right of Attilla the Hun.

It seems to me that Romney's 1990s persona, had he kept it, would be a pretty formidable national general-election candidate -- and the Tsongas vote would be a point of pride. It shows a rejection of partisanship, a streak of independence, and a belief in fiscal responsibility. (Balancing the national budget was Tsongas's central theme in '92.) That, along with Romney's then-moderate beliefs on social issues, along with his political heritage and business success, would make him awfully attractive to the great swath of mainstream Americans, I would think. But not to GOP primary voters, apparently.

Back in the 90s, a group of "moderate" Republican governors tried to open their party to the "big tent." They all looked like potentially strong Presidential candidates: Bill Weld, Christine Todd Whitman, Pete Wilson, and George Pataki. The national party has rejected them all. Romney learned that lesson, and has tried to adapt to the party's demands. His transformation is so transparently phony it will likely fail -- and if it's successful, it's hard to see how he can win a general election with his new positions.

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