ussert spent a bit of time on religion. Romney did as well as you could expect and said he’d have no problem putting a nonbeliever on the Supreme Court. My sense is he’d rather not be talking about this topic but this is what inevitably flows in the post-Speech environment. Russert marched through the flip flop issues. (On these you either buy each individual explanation or you sit back, look at the totality of the shifts and say “no way.”) Romney did acknowledge that although he believes life begins at conception he would not ban use of so-called surplus embryos for stem cell research although he wouldn’t use tax money. The trickiest part for him was Russert’s effect questioning on Romney’s no tax pledge as a candidate for governor. He has contended he kept the pledge although he raised hundreds of millions in fees and loophole closings. Romney fenced for a bit but conceded: “A fee could be called a tax. I’m not trying to hide the fact. We raised fees $240 million.” Lo and behold this
winds up in my inbox to illustrate the point. Whether Romney’s rivals will make a big deal of it, especially in “Live Free or Die”/ No Tax NH, remains to be seen. Russert also grilled him on his criticism of Huckabee’s “bunker mentality” remark, noting that Romney called Iraq “a mess.” Romney said it wasn’t the same thing. On this point I think Romney made the wrong argument against Huckabee. The issue is not what Huckabee thinks or says about Bush, it’s what Huckabee thinks himself. Like the line-item veto argument Romney tends to go for a less central issue rather than the jugular. Finally, Romney gave a rather wishy-washy “I hope so” when asked if we was going to beat Huckabee in Iowa. Not exactly the big boost people need to encourage them to get out on caucus night.