Liberal Leanings as Conservative Credentials?

I know that sounds like an odd proposition, especially coming from a vehement Rudy Giuliani foe like me, but hear me out. During last night’s debate, Mitt Romney was challenged for “flip-flopping” on guns, and asked if reconsidering an issue had ever moved him away from the conservative base. He debunked the former—he did, and still does, favor assault weapon bans—and on the latter said he has come to support the federal No Child Left Behind legislation.

First things first: while such laws will vary from state to state, there’s
a strong case to be made that Romney is wrong on the general concept of assault weapon bans. Regarding NCLB, the Governor made a fair point about going over the heads of teachers’ unions to place grading standards on school districts (right-wingers take note: this guy slapped teachers’ unions), but it’s also true that NCLB was/is a dramatic expansion of the federal government’s power in matters that should be left to the states.

So why should these imperfections make the Right more comfortable with Romney? Because they speak against the charge that he’s a flip-floppin’ phony whose conservative credentials will wash off in the rain. If he really was a cheap opportunist tailoring his image depending on his political audience, why not go all the way? Gun owners especially are a serious voting force (By the way,
Romney never ran as a liberal).

So am I advocating that we throw limited government and gun rights overboard? Am I a hypocrite for
accusing Giuliani supporters of doing the same? No.

First, almost all the candidates—even plenty of the “conservative alternative” types—have a few kinks in their armor. John McCain & Giuliani’s excursions into LeftyLand have been beaten to death, Sam Brownback favors amnesty & is unreliable on Iraq, Mike Huckabee is a big government guy, Jim Gilmore & Tommy Thompson impress nobody, Tom Tancredo’s “disengage but don’t withdrawal” (or something like that) approach to Iraq was incoherent, Newt Gingrich has bought into man-made global warming, Fred Thompson supported campaign-finance reform, and Ron Paul favors national suicide (and that’s just off the top of my head!). To the best of my knowledge, the only candidate who’s solidly conservative on nearly every issue is Duncan Hunter—and let’s face it, he’s not going to be the next President.

I know that choosing an imperfect conservative—a candidate who will disappoint at least a few members of the coalition—is unavoidable. But my point is this: contrary to what some may tell you, those of us who oppose Giuliani & (to a lesser extent) McCain are not doing so because we’re demanding some mythological representative of conservative perfection (heck, I’ve even said I’ll back McCain if he’s the nominee). We understand that our standard-bearer won’t agree with us on every single issue. Rather, we’re looking for the best we can realistically get. Simply put, when you look at the entirety of their records, McCain is to the right of Giuliani, and Romney is to the right of McCain. The reason this position is different than the Rudy crowd’s is that it deliberately seeks out the candidate with the most conservatism and least liberalism. In contrast, it would be awfully difficult to argue that Rudy Giuliani is not the most liberal Republican in the race (aside from Ron Paul, of course—and even though Paul’s terrorism lunacy immediately makes him worse than Rudy, it’s probably true that Paul is, on balance, to Rudy’s right).

Your thoughts?
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