Was talking to a top conservative strategist about Romney last night. He thinks the gay and abortion flip-flops are uncomfortable for him, but certainly survivable and not any worse than we’ve seen from other Republicans who have won the nomination. (He also e-mailed this morning to say he thinks that Romney’s interview with Kathryn probably helps him.) He would be more worried about Romney going too far and getting captured by the conservative base he is wooing. The genuis of Bush in 1999/2000 was that he was the candidate of the base, while still being “the compassionate conservative” and “the uniter not the divider,” i.e. having a wider appeal to the party and the electorate.
Relatedly, a friend was making a point to me yesterday about how what it takes to get into the first tier of presidential candidates and what it take to emerge from that tier as the winner are often two different things. If you keep just doing the things that got you into the first tier, you may hurt yourself. Romney got into the top tier partly by getting to the right on everything through various Massachusetts controversies. I can see how his annoucement yesterday on illegals, though, might have made some conservatives begin to think, “Geez, you’re really pandering to me.”
Having conservative support is obviously key to Romney, but just as important–and I doubt this is news to anyone in his shop–is developing themes and a personal narrative that mesh together in a compelling, appealing way.