Nixon’s the one!

I take myself to be the average Republican primary voter. I want to support the most conservative candidate who can beat Barack Obama. I resist Mitt Romney while keeping an open mind that he may be the one.

As each of the other plausible alternatives to Romney has fallen, leaving Newt standing, the choice becomes stark. It’s a weak field, in my opinion; our strongest players have remained on the bench. I still have an open mind about Romney, and Newt has issues too, as Charles Krauthammer observes this morning.

Ramesh Ponnuru makes the case for Romney (and against Gingrich) in the new issue of National Review. I’m old enough to recall that the title of the article — “Romney’s the one” — harks back to Richard Nixon’s 1968 campaign slogan. After a brief fling with Ronald Reagan — see, e.g., Steve Hayward’s The Age of Reagan: The Fall of the Old Liberal Order, 1964-1980 — conservatives reconciled themselves to Nixon in 1968.

Despite his manifest strengths in foreign policy, Nixon proved in office not to be a conservative (he gave us wage and price controls and the EPA, among other things) and did incalculable damage both to the Republican Party as as well as the conservative movement. But the conservative movement was weaker then than now and a President Romney would probably have Republican majorities in both houses of Congress. It is reasonable to hope that circumstances would favor a successful Romney presidency.

Just when the logic of a Romney candidacy was about to impress itself on me, Romney consented to an interview with Bret Baier on Fox News this week. Like Nixon in 1968, Romney has chosen to avoid these kinds of appearances. I think you can see why in this interview. It is an unimpressive performance. Baier conducts himself in a perfectly professional manner. When challenged with predictable questions by Baier, Romney is by turns discombobulated and even petulant (great line: “We’re going to have to be better informed about my views on issues”) before he recovers his footing toward the end of the interview.

By contrast with the persona he has projected in the GOP debates, Romney is, in the interview, flappable. And Mitt, we’re not gonna read your damn book. When it comes to books, Nixon’s the one!

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