Mitt Romney says he speaks “for the Republican wing of the Republican party.” John McCain recently ran through a list of Romney’s apostasies, such as not endorsing the Contract with America when he ran for the Senate in 1994, and concluded, “So you’ll understand why I’m a little perplexed when Mitt Romney now suggests that he’s a better Republican than me.” Fred Thompson’s campaign has also jumped on Romney, claiming (ridiculously) that he ran to Ted Kennedy’s left in that Senate race.
Going back to 1994 is something of a theme for the Thompson campaign. His spokesman has said that Thompson intends to point out that he was part of the Republican revolution that year, whereas Rudy Giuliani endorsed Democrat Mario Cuomo and Romney distanced himself from Ronald Reagan.
This squabbling does not advance conservatism. The Republican party is in low esteem. Most Americans do not believe that it has answers to the country’s problems. In choosing a president, they are not seeking the man who best embodies the Republican platform, or expresses the most nostalgia for 1994 (or, for that matter, 1980).
Republicans should try to persuade the public that the ideas in their platform are attractive and constructive. They will not persuade it that conformity to the platform is important for its own sake. We hope the presidential candidates are underestimating Republican primary voters, who should demand better from them.