That a freshly nominated candidate -- as Mitt Romney ever more likely will be after Tampa -- would tack to the center, as an adviser today perhaps inartfully suggested he would, is a hardly a novel political strategy for the general election.
Just ask the anti-NAFTA forces disappointed when then-Sen. Barack Obama softened his rhetoric on the trade deal as his nomination became inevitable.
Romney’s post-primary strategy, a chunk of which was evident during his victory speech on Tuesday night, will bend to the middle and away from the hard right that’s never been too thrilled with him. And his image as an economic fixer will appeal to some moderates frustrated with Obama. Today's endorsement from former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush was aimed at hastening that strategy's full implementation.
The danger for Romney is that the ideological malleability that GOP conservatives have targeted is also a liability among moderates, who like pragmatic flexibility but don’t like career-minded opportunism. If Romney can present them with the former while shrouding the latter, his Etch-A-Sketch could show a picture of success.
-- Jim O’Sullivan
NATIONAL JOURNAL’S PRIMARY REPORT
Romney Faces Tough Race in Louisiana NEW!
[Associated Press, 3/21/12] Santorum expects to do better in Louisiana than he did even in Alabama and Mississippi, setting up a tough race for Romney, who has traditionally had trouble winning in the South.
Jeb Bush Signal to Republicans: It’s Time to End This Thing
[National Journal 3/21/12] Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush’s support of the GOP front-runner, one of the race’s most coveted endorsements, sends an unequivocal message to Republicans everywhere that after a long, bitter primary fight, it’s time to unite behind Romney as the party’s presidential nominee.
Kristol Still Not ‘Reassured’
[The Weekly Standard, 3/21/12] The conservative writer William Kristol is among those in the Republican establishment still unconvinced that Romney is a strong nominee. He describes himself as “morose.” But then says that his magazine could lose its purpose for being if the GOP nominee “knew how to make his case.”
Establishment Starts to Coalesce Behind Romney NEW!
[Associated Press, 3/21/12] Today offered a mixed bag for Romney, with the endorsement of Jeb Bush indicating establishment Republicans are willing to get behind him as the nominee, but his advisor's Etch A Sketch remarks tripping up his campaign.
Illinois Verdict: The Race Goes on With Divided GOP
[National Journal, 3/20/12] National Journal’s Ronald Brownstein writes that Romney’s resounding win in the Illinois primary on Tuesday demonstrated his solidifying hold on the GOP’s upscale managerial wing. But by reaffirming the basic patterns of demographic and ideological support for both Romney and Rick Santorum, the result is unlikely to dent expectations that the race could careen all the way to June.
Illinois May Signal an End to the Primary
[Time, 3/20/12] Romney’s win could be the beginning of the end of the Republican nomination fight, but in order to get there, he must convince on-the-sidelines Republicans to endorse his candidacy, contribute to his campaign, and muscle Rick Santorum and Newt Gingrich out of the race.
Romney Adviser: 'You Hit a Reset Button' in the Fall
[National Journal, 3/21/12] Following Tuesday's win, a senior Romney campaign adviser dismissed concerns that any tack to the right in the primary might hurt him in the general election, saying "it’s like an Etch-a-Sketch -- you can shake it up and we start all over again.”
Will the Etch A Sketch Gaffe Bloody Mitt Romney? NEW!
[National Journal, 3/21/12] The Etch A Sketch statement made by one of Romney's advisors has blown up in the media, but National Journal's John Aloysius Farrell argues that the statement is nothing new, and Romney will be able to weather this storm.
Romney Tries to Erase Etch A Sketch Flap, Promises to Be Conservative NEW!
[National Journal, 3/21/12] Romney decided to address his advisor's comments after rivals seized on them to attack him as a flip-flopper, and attempted to reassure voters that he has always been, and will always be, a true conservative.
The Silver Foot In His Mouth: How Romney’s Gaffes Keep The Primaries Going NEW!
[Talking Points Memo, 3/21/12] The Etch A Sketch snafu isn't the first gaffe of Romney's campaign, and it likely won't be the last. Missteps like these give continuous fodder to Romney's opponents, and make it more difficult for him to convince voters that he's the candidate to beat Obama come fall.
Ron Paul: Secret Service 'A Form of Welfare'
[National Journal, 3/21/12] Ron Paul is the only remaining Republican presidential candidate who does not have Secret Service protection -- and he doesn’t want it, either. Appearing on the Tonight Show on Tuesday, Paul told Jay Leno that the service is “a form of welfare” and costs taxpayers too much money.
Republicans Drain Bank Accounts in February
[National Journal, 3/21/12] February was not a welcoming month for any of the GOP presidential primary candidates on the financial front, with all the leading candidates draining their coffers as they fought bruising primaries. Romney was the fundraising winner, while Gingrich fared the worst.
Suburbs Pivotal in Restoring Romney’s Momentum
[Chicago Daily Herald, 3/21/12] The Illinois suburbs proved pivotal in giving Romney delegates and restoring much-needed momentum to a campaign that seemed to be stumbling since Super Tuesday. Romney swept suburban Cook County and the collar counties long known for their moderate conservatism.
Romney Exorcises Demographic Demons
[The Hill, 3/21/12] For the first time since Rick Santorum’s surge, Romney ate into large pieces of the former senator’s base and, in some cases, swallowed them whole, expanding his support among younger voters, the middle class, and tea party backers.
G.O.P. Nomination Becoming a One-Man Race NEW!
[New York Times, 3/21/12] Nate Silver argues that at this point, Romney seems so inevitable that the only candidate who could take him down would be himself.
A Romney-Ryan Ticket?
[Weekly Standard, 3/21/12] A big step Romney took toward becoming an unabashed conservative was his endorsement on Tuesday of the House GOP budget drafted by Paul Ryan. And there may be more than meets the eye to Romney’s alliance with Ryan. Fred Barnes explores the possibility of a Romney-Ryan ticket.
Voter Turnout Extremely Low in Chicago
[CBS, 3/20/12] Turnout for Tuesday’s Illinois primary in Chicago was just 24 percent, the lowest turnout for a presidential primary in 70 years. Election officials blamed a lack of contested races for the lackluster activity at the polls. Turnout hit record lows for recent years throughout the state.
The Gingrich Fade
[National Journal, 3/21/12] His schedule is notably light, his campaign is deep in debt, and he came in last in the GOP primary on Tuesday in Illinois. As it becomes ever clearer that Gingrich’s southern strategy is not working, calls for him to end his White House bid will skyrocket.
Romney Widens Lead, But Prize Still Elusive
[Wall Street Journal, 3/20/12] A fresh haul of delegates from Illinois will add to Romney's lead in the long nomination fight, but he isn't yet assured of sewing up the nomination before the primary contests end in June.
Next Up: Louisiana
[The Advocate, 3/20/12] The Advocate previews Saturday’s Bayou State contest, where a maximum of 20 out of 46 delegates are available. The remaining 26 delegates, most of whom will be elected at a state GOP meeting, would go uncommitted to the convention.
Billionaire Gives Millions More to Pro-Gingrich Super PAC
[The Hill, 3/20/12] Casino magnate Sheldon Adelson contributed another $5.5 million in February to Winning Our Future, the super PAC supporting Gingrich, according to Federal Election Commission documents filed on Tuesday.
Santorum's Blunt Talk is Proving Troublesome
[Washington Post, 3/20/12] The very qualities that made Santorum a contender in the GOP race are turning into problems, as he is more frequently being tripped up by candid comments and unconventional moves that have raised doubts about his capacity to be his party’s standard-bearer.
Meet Annette Simmons; Woman Put $1 Million Toward Rick Santorum NEW!
[ABC, 3/21/12] Annette Simmons' first political donation was to the Red, White and Blue Fund, the super PAC that supports Santorum, because "he's the kind of man" she would want to be president, she said.