David Keene, president of the American Conservative Union, has endorsed Mitt Romney. Keene said he’s “convinced that Mitt Romney represents our best hope for 2008” and that he will work to persuade conservatives “that if we are serious about electing a conservative president in 2008, it’s time to unite behind his candidacy.” Implicit in Keene’s statement is the recognition that there’s no obvious choice for conservatives in this field, and that conservatives aren’t going to make the tough decision about whom to support based on the mere fact of an endorsement.
I look at endorsements not for guidance on how to vote, but for a sense of how things may break. When Romney received early endorsements from congressional conservatives like Senator DeMint, it told me that he was a serious contender for the conservative vote, and so he has been. But revelations of past non-conservatives positions prevented Romney from sealing the deal. Keene’s endorsement is evidence that, late in the day, conservatives realize that this may well come down to a race between Giuliani and Romney, two men who governed as centrists, and that, as I wrote yesterday, it may make sense to prefer the top-tier condidate who now commits to conservative positions down the line to the one who says, in essence, “I was a great mayor; take me as you find me.”
UPDATE: I should have added that Keene’s endorsement may reflect concern among traditional conservatives with the traction Mike Huckabee seems to be gaining among social conservatives. Traditional conservatives combine social conservatism with economic conservatism, as Romney does in his current positions. Huckabee is strong on the former but much less so on the latter.
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