Tom Bevan of RealClearPolitics believes that John McCain beat Mitt Romney in their fight this weekend over which candidate is a “real Republican.”
An adviser to one of Romney’s rivals told me this morning, as we were discussing the “Real Republican” fight of the weekend, that he doesn’t understand the Romney strategy: “I’m not a huge fan of what Romney did in Massachusetts, but it was successful enough to be the foundation of a his message: I’m Mr. Fix-It, I’m the the can-do, get-it-done governor.”
It’s a shame that President Bush left the term “compassionate conservatism” a punchline, because Romney could take his record of accomplishments in Massachusetts and package them as something like “Innovative Conservatism” — i.e., “I solved the health care crisis, got every resident health insurance, and took that issue off the table from the Democrats. I balanced the budget, every year. I rewarded good students by providing the top 25 percent a full-ride scholarship for four years to state universities – big incentive, big reward, big results. You look down the list of common-sense conservative goals that have been hindered and held back for years – national tort reform, stopping illegal immigration, entitlement reform, eliminating earmarks, tax simplification and reform – I’m the guy who can get that done. If I can get common sense initiatives through a legislature controlled by Massachusetts Democrats, I can get common sense initiatives through Congress.”
Romney says much of what’s above, but it rarely seems like the centerpiece of his message. Instead, he seems hell-bent on proving he’s a social conservative despite a less-than-ideal record.