The whole “Real Republican” fight of the weekend between Mitt Romney and John McCain was bizarre. In fact, if Fred Thompson wrote the script for this primary race, he would includes lots of fights like this one. Much like in the fight between Giuliani and Romney on which one was more economically conservative, the non-Fred candidates who don’t have ideal records in the eyes of the right are spending a news cycle taking turns reminding primary voters of the flaws of the others.
(It’s not like Thompson’s invulnerable, by the way. A rival could charge something like, ‘We don’t need a Republican candidate who lobbied for an abortion-rights group, sponsored McCain-Feingold, and who, until March, was seeking to take over for radio commentator Paul Harvey instead of George W. Bush.” Unfortunately, the record of the other big three is a “target-rich environment” on this front.)
Also, isn’t the phrase “REAL Republican” by now almost a trademark of angry e-mails from Ron Paul backers? As in “REAL Republicans spend night and day thinking about how to return America to the gold standard”?
The play-by-play on this weekend’s fight:#more#
Romney began by going after Rudy Giuliani:
“I believe conservatives across the nation and particularly in states where I have been able to take my message, like Iowa and New Hampshire and South Carolina and Michigan and Florida and Nevada, that conservatives that have heard me time and again recognize that I do speak for the Republican wing of the Republican Party,”
John McCain took exception and hit back:
“Former Governor Romney yesterday proclaimed himself the only real Republican in this race,” McCain said according to remarks released by his campaign for delivery Saturday to a gathering of the New Hampshire Republican Party. “As we all know, when he ran for office in Massachusetts being a Republican wasn’t much of a priority for him. In fact, when he ran against Ted Kennedy, he said he didn’t want to return to the days of Reagan-Bush. I always thought Ronald Reagan was a real Republican.”
“When Governor Romney donated money to a Democratic candidate in New Hampshire, I don’t think he was speaking for Republicans,” the GOP presidential hopeful went on to say. “When he voted for a Democratic candidate for President, Paul Tsongas, I don’t think he was speaking for Republicans. When he refused to endorse the Contract with America, I don’t think he was speaking for Republicans. And when he was embracing the Democratic position on many major issues of the day, I don’t think he was speaking for Republicans.”
“So you’ll understand why I’m a little perplexed when Mitt Romney now suggests that he’s a better Republican than me,” McCain said, “or that he speaks for the Republican wing of the Republican Party.”
Fred Thompson jumped in, although his team’s pithier remarks got a little less attention than McCain’s:
“In 1994, Mitt Romney accomplished what people had long thought was impossible – he ran for Senate to the left of Ted Kennedy,” said Todd Harris, Thompson’s Communications Director in an e-mail statement Saturday. “I didn’t know there was any room there. For him to now claim to represent the Republican wing of the Republican Party is yet another Mitt Romney flip flop.”
And Romney’s team jabbed back:
“There is an important contrast between Governor Romney and the other candidates. While some fought the line-item veto with lawsuits in court, Governor Romney was using the line-item as governor to stop wasteful spending,” said Kevin Madden, Romney’s national spokesman in a statement to CNN. “While other candidates are opposed to a Federal Marriage Amendment to protect traditional marriage, Governor Romney has strongly supported it. While other candidates in this race voted against the Bush tax cuts that have delivered growth to our economy, Governor Romney has called for extending that tax relief. Governor Romney’s strong record of bringing about conservative change is what sets him apart from the other candidates.”
“The status-quo mindset that has gripped Washington and molded those that have been there for so long is in need of fresh ideas and conservative change that can only come from outside of Washington,” Madden said. “Angry attacks from flailing campaigns won’t stop Governor Romney from moving forward with his optimistic agenda designed to bring sorely needed change to Washington.”
All the fight between Giuliani and Romney on who was the real economic conservative did was showcase every time each one raised a commuter tax, state-administered fee, or other not-so-conservative moment. I doubt this sequel will help either Romney or McCain.