John McCain is right to push back against Mitt Romney who-channeling Howard Dean of all people-purported to represent the “Republican wing of the Republican Party.”
If you look at the actual records of the two candidates, McCain would have to be seen as the more conservative. Back during the Reagan years, when McCain was a conservative in good standing, Romney was a proud independent. In 1992, when McCain was running for re-election to the Senate as a Republican, Romney was supporting liberal Democratic candidates such as Dick Swett and Paul Tsongas. On abortion, McCain has been solidly pro-life throughout his career, while Romney was pro-choice from at least 1970 to 2005, and pro-life for just the past two years. On gun control, McCain voted against the 1994 ban on assault weapons, while Romney signed a ban on assault weapons as governor. McCain was one of the few Republican senators to vote against the Medicare prescription drug bill, while Romney drastically expanded the role of government in people’s lives by imposing an individual health insurance mandate on Massachusetts citizens as part of a healthcare plan that is already wildly over budget. On national security matters, aside from being a war hero, McCain has been one of the leading hawks in the Senate for over two decades, and was among the first to call for increasing troop levels in Iraq, and he defended the surge strategy at the cost of losing political support among independents. Romney, meanwhile, has crafted a carefully nuanced position on Iraq and expects everybody to believe he’d be a tough commander in chief because he uses the words “jihadist” and “caliphate.”
Obviously, McCain has had his problems with conservatives, but even in those areas Romney’s record is not spotless. The biggest indictment of McCain among conservatives is on campaign finance reform, but in 1994 Romney supported campaign spending limits and the abolition of political action committees — measures arguably far more drastic than McCain-Feingold. In 2002, Romney supported taxing political contributions at 10 percent to help publicly fund campaigns. On immigration, Romney thought a McCain-Kennedy style compromise was reasonable until he started running for president, and he refused to publicly support the Bush tax cuts that McCain opposed.
That’s not to say that Romney doesn’t have any arguments he could make for himself as a presidential candidate. Clearly, he is a very intelligent and accomplished businessman who could have credibly run as a competent manager and turnaround artist. But instead of emphasizing his strengths, for some reason, he’s tried to run as the only true conservative in the race, something that his record simply does not support. McCain’s problem has been that when he has broken with conservatives, he has made a public show of it–making friends with the liberal media in the process. On the other hand, Romney’s deviations from conservatism occurred at a time when most of the country didn’t know who he was, and since he has no qualms about changing his positions to suit the political environment, many are first getting to know him through his current posture as a conservative Republican.
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