Mona, I get some of the same mail you do, from people who think that Newt is the Last Word in Conservatism. I’m learning, more and more, that political perceptions have a great deal to do with style. If you slash and shout, many people think of you as “conservative” or “right-wing.” If you say right-wing things in a calm, polite way, you may be seen as a moderate.
“Attitude” is another word that comes to mind — attitude and style. They have so much to do with political perceptions.
Think about two governors, Perry and Romney. (Well, one’s a former governor.) Perry is considered the more conservative by far. But there are some areas in which Romney is to the “right” of Perry. Thing is, Perry could quote The Communist Manifesto and he’d still come off as conservative. It’s the swagger, the chest, the twang — all that.
I used to say that Richard Armitage seemed right-wing, looked right-wing. He was built like a brick you-know-what. I think William Safire once referred to him as “a State Department source, with no neck.” But Armitage was at one, philosophically, with Colin Powell.
Newt Gingrich will always seem more conservative than Romney, if for style and attitude alone, I think.
P.S. The enemies a guy makes makes a huge difference too. In some ways, Nixon out-LBJ’d LBJ, as he occasionally liked to brag. But the Left hated Nixon so much, righties rallied to him.