Let me repeat the phrase again: a one-term pro-choice former governor of Massachusetts. Add on top of that his Massachusetts health plan and the fee increases you keep pointing out. If that was Mitt Romney’s 2008 platform, then his campaign would have ended after New Hampshire rather than (maybe) Iowa. Not a huge difference in the final analysis.
Even if Romney’s strategy of moving to the right ends up failing — he almost certainly erred by making the issues on which he flip-flopped central to his campaign — some variation of it was still his best bet. The constituency within the national GOP for an Arlen Specter-style fiscal and social moderate with no other big story to tell is not large enough to give anyone the nomination. And while authenticity matters, let’s not make a fetish of it. Iowans were plenty willing to overlook their concerns about how genuine Romney was until they felt they got a better offer from Mike Huckabee. Enough of them were still willing to overlook those concerns to put Romney more than ten points ahead of the third, fourth, and fifth place finishers.