Apparently our friend Rush Limbaugh has been discussing my column today, which is very flattering. Alas, I couldn’t hear the segment — I’m at the office without radio — so I just have to go by what people have e-mailed or tweeted to me about it. If I get the gist wrong, my apologies. As I understand it, Rush sees my column as a sign that there’s “buyer’s remorse” for Romney among the “conservative establishment” (I love that I’m a member but Rush somehow isn’t).
I think there’s some truth to that. That was the point of my column to a certain extent. My problem with the analysis — again, as it has been relayed to me — is the assumption that I was a booster of Romney’s in the first place. I hear this sort of thing all of the time. The only problem is there is pretty much no evidence for it. If someone can point to a single paragraph or even sentence I’ve written or said that suggests that I’ve been “in the tank” for Romney, I’d very much like to see it because I don’t think it exists. In fairness to Rush, he did say he didn’t know for sure whether I was a Romney backer before I came to my “buyer’s remorse.” But that’s the problem. If I didn’t buy the product, I can’t have buyer’s remorse.
What seems to confuse some people — I’m not referring to Limbaugh here; I doubt he spends a lot of his time worrying about what I say or write — is that I’ve not been particularly anti-Romney or pro-anyone else either. As I keep saying, the whole field is flawed. Would I support Romney over Perry? Yes, but if Perry had lived up to expectations when he entered the race, I’d be for Perry. Unfortunately, while he’s sufficiently conservative for me, he hasn’t impressed me as a candidate who can beat Obama or would be an effective conservative president. I’m more torn about Gingrich (though, like Rush, I find Newt’s Bain barbs entirely indefensible). Anyway, the point is that people are over-reading my motivations. I’ve been underwhelmed by all of them, for one reason or another, and I think if you go back and look you’ll find that I’ve criticized and/or praised all of them based on no obvious (or existent) agenda.
With all due respect, I think the idea that the “conservative establishment” didn’t want a conservative never mind the suggestion it did everything it could to try and stop one from emerging as an alternative to Romney is just wrong. As I’ve written before, today’s establishment is awfully conservative. For instance if there’s anybody who represents the so-called conservative establishment more than Bill Kristol I have no idea who that might be. Well, Bill’s a very conservative guy. And short of wearing a sandwich board and ringing a bell while walking the earth like Caine shouting “There’s still time for someone else to get in the race,” he’s done about everything he can to get someone else in the race. As far as I can tell none of the people he’s had in mind are named Lincoln Chafee or Olympia Snowe.
Meanwhile, the single person most responsible for ensuring a Romney primary victory is probably Ron Paul, who has refused to attack Romney in any serious way and who has prevented an alternative to Romney to emerge. Ron Paul is not a member of the conservative establishment, I don’t think. And if he is, I still seriously doubt he’s on any conference calls with Bill Kristol coordinating strategy. But that’s just a hunch.
All of that said, I do think Rush and others are right about the remorse part — even if we can debate who the buyers are (even NR’s editorial was not a full-throated endorsement of Romney, contrary to what many critics contend). There’s just something about Romney that has a lot of people worried. He gave a good speech last night and the attacks on his tenure at Bain have managed to earn him sympathy and support from many on the right (including Rush). But he hasn’t closed the deal with a lot of people, and he’s so far failed to inspire the grassroots (turnout in Iowa and New Hampshire was much lower among conservative Republicans than it it should have been).
Since it appears that he’ll be the nominee, I hope he and his number crunchers feed enough data into the computron and figure out how to fix this problem soon. But it is a problem.
Update: I now see that even Newt considers his attacks on Bain indefensible. Good for Newt.
Update II: To spare another few hundred of you the bother, yes it’s stupid of me not to find Rush on the web. Not sure what I was thinking save that by the time I realized it, I figured the segment was over.