Readers may recall that I was disappointed by Mitt Romney’s speech at National Review’s conservative summit. But Mitt didn’t disappoint today at CPAC. Instead, building on the theme of a unified conservative movement articulated by Ronald Reagan at the same forum 30 years ago, Romney presented a fiery defense of all three major strands of conservatism — economic, social, and security.
I don’t think anyone doubts Romney’s economic conservatism or his support for a strong defense and an aggressive assault against the jihadists. However, Romney has not consistently taken socially conservative positions. Today, instead of trying to explain his conversion to social conservatism as he did at the NR event, he simply focused on what he did as Massachusetts governor to support marriage as it has always been defined, and to oppose the judicial activists who have taken in upon themselves to redefine the institution. That, I think, is the right approach.
In the absence of another first-tier Republican candidate with a longer track-record of up-front social conservatism, Romney is the social conservative in this race as far as I’m concerned. Indeed, one would be hard-pressed to listen to his speech of today and doubt that Romney is the most solidly conservative of the three front-runners, period.
Speaking of the rest of the field, Romney took two good shots at John McCain, who has chosen to bypass the CPAC event. First, Romney vowed that, as president, he would work for the repeal of McCain-Feingold. Second, he expressed strong opposition to the McCain-Kennedy immigration package. He also took a shot at the MSM when he noted that, while some pundits are (again) predicting the demise of conservatism, he expects the movement to be around longer than, say, newspapers.
Romney concluded his speech by focusing on the matter of increased economic competition from Asia, especially China. The path to success in this competition, he argued passionately, is through reliance on our strength as a free people. And that means reliance on conservative principles as advanced by the kind of unified conservative movement Reagan called for 30 years ago.
Romney has taken plenty of hits lately but today, I think, he produced a hit — an extra-base hit.
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“Arise and take our stand for freedom as in the olden time.” Winston Churchill
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