A Simple Counter to the Argument that Romney wasn’t “Conservative Enough”

There has been, and will continue to be, much said regarding the notion that if only Romney were a “true conservative” that he would have won.

May I note that the point at which Romney seemed to start making a race out of the contest was after the first debate, during which time he seemed to make a bit of move to the center.

Let’s suppose that Romney had come to the Denver debate and doubled-down on his “severe” conservatism.  What if he had gone Akin or Mourdok on the rape issue.  Would that have helped?

What if he had been even harsher or immigration.  Would that have helped?

Clearly, no, it would not have.  Indeed, he projected a somewhat more moderate tone in the debates, and and that helped close the gap with Obama a bit.

This does not comport with the hypothesis that a more conservative candidate would have done better.

FILED UNDER: Campaign 2012, Quick Takes, US Politics
Steven L. Taylor
About Steven L. Taylor
Steven L. Taylor is a Professor of Political Science and a College of Arts and Sciences Dean. His main areas of expertise include parties, elections, and the institutional design of democracies. His most recent book is the co-authored A Different Democracy: American Government in a 31-Country Perspective. He earned his Ph.D. from the University of Texas and his BA from the University of California, Irvine. He has been blogging since 2003 (originally at the now defunct Poliblog). Follow Steven on Twitter

Comments

  1. Moosebreath says:

    We’ve seen posts which are superdestroyer bait. This is the first bithead bait post in a while.

  2. legion says:

    Additionally, the fact that Sean Hannity, Bill Kristol and John Boehner have all suggested more centrist GOP policies since the election fully supports both your hypothesis and the idea that the Republicans know it.

  3. Console says:

    When I read this headline, the first thing that came to my mind was “the first debate.”

    Definitely was amusing watching my conservative friends on my facebook feed get all giddy and not even notice the etch-a-sketch happening before their very eyes. Well… amusing and then just plain sad. There is something seriously wrong with movement conservatives.

  4. mattb says:

    Really Steven, are you just baiting?

    Even at the time. the “not conservative enough” part of the party already had an answer to this. See Eric F’s comment on the post debate thread:

    Eric F:
    Understand; I’ve never been a big fan of Romney, as I’ve said here and at my own place, quite a few times. Romney may argue that some of what the left offers is worthwhile. But that isn’t what won the night, and you know it. Stop trying to pull a plum out of the shit pile, Sam.

    This portion of the conservative base has never argued on facts or been willing to be honest about the performance of “real conservatives.”

    Remember that Eric F has constantly stated that a “real conservative” like Ryan, Palin or Cain (all of whom he has confirmed as real conservatives in another thread) would have won this election hands down. And I believe he’s serious in that conviction. Which tells you everything you need to know to judge his and his ilk’s grip on objective shared reality.

  5. grumpy realist says:

    Steven, you’re being too logical. Romney didn’t win == Romney wasn’t “conservative enough”.

  6. Geek, Esq. says:

    Here’s two credible argument for the “not conservative enough” line:

    1) Only an actual conservative can make effective arguments for conservativism. A fake conservative for Romney will make wholly unconvincing arguments for conservativism, because all they can do is make arguments based on what they think conservatives want to hear.

    2) An actual conservative, who’s already established his conservative bona fides before running in a primary campaign, has more latitude to tack to the center on key issues early. A fake conservative like Romney had to pander harder to the right and keep it up longer in order to get the base motivated and believing in him. In contrast, an actual conservative wouldn’t have to be so self-referentially conservative, but rather could talk about where he saw areas of compromise.

  7. Tsar Nicholas says:

    Barack Obama was and is the counterargument that Romney was not conservative enough.

    But if we’re looking not merely for preponderance of the evidence or even clear and convincing evidence of that reality, needing for some reason to go beyond a reasonable doubt, if Romney wasn’t “conservative enough” how in the name of Barry Goldwater did Romney manage to win by such overwhelming margins in places like ID, WY, UT, NE, OK, KS?

  8. Console says:

    @Tsar Nicholas:

    because he’s white…

  9. Console says:

    Oh I couldn’t resist that one. But in all reality, I don’t know if margin matters so much as turnout.

  10. Gromitt Gunn says:

    @Tsar Nicholas: um… because even if Romney was “conservative enough,” he was still far more conservative than Mr. Obama… in states like ID and OK, Romney was clearly the lesser evil for a plurality of the electorate…

  11. C. Clavin says:

    Here…I fixed your first sentence for you.

    “…There has been, and will continue to be, much said regarding the notion that if only Romney were a “true conservative” that insane enough he would have won…”

    If all those people were interested in the Conservative Candidate…they should have voted for Obama…the only Conservative in the race.

  12. Dean says:

    Steven Taylor: What if he had gone Akin or Mourdok on the rape issue? Would that have helped?

    Akin and Mourdok displayed no conservative values by their comments. Stupid and insulting? Yes. But not conservative.

  13. john personna says:

    I think the “needed to be more conservative” thing is innumaracy again.

    Imagine 10 buckets in a row. The left most bucket has one fringe lefty in it. The right has one reactionary. The next inner buckets have two, and then three, and then so on. With anything resembling a normal distribution, the way to capture the majority is to capture the center buckets AND those to your side.

    If you abandon the center buckets, you can’t win.

    (Some might insist that there is a barbell distribution, with more right than left, but again remember our current party identifications: 1/3 independent and ~1/3 Democrat. Given that, again, you cannot capture the majority doubling down on the right most 1/3)

  14. JohnMcC says:

    Regarding that first debate, my Tea-Party family members sagely said ‘it’s just strategic, have to appeal to the voters you know.’ It was totally OK with them that Moderate Mitt showed up singing ‘give peace a chance’.

  15. Jen says:

    @Dean: Akin and Mourdok are part of the “pro life on any and all counts” movement, and I’d lump in there the dunderhead from Illinois who stated that with advances in medicine there is no longer a need to have an exception for the life of the mother. (I’ll point out here that the Catholic church is okay with terminating a pregnancy to save the life of the mother, so yes, we are talking about a position that is more extreme than that held by a religious institution.) Republicans need to figure out what they are going to do with this contingency of the “pro-life” movement. They’ve embraced their votes and support for a long time, now these statements are getting national attention. It doesn’t really matter if their statements are “conservative” or not. Conservatives embrace the pro-life movement, and these guys are a manifestation of that movement’s more extreme elements. Whether it’s watch who you make friends with, or dance with the ones that brung ya, they now have ownership.

    There was a time when comments like these would have been state news, maybe making a blip on the national news. But now, with the internet, there are any number of sites reporting this sort of content and compiling it in one place.

    Again, responding to Karen Hughes’ comments about this topic: the problem is not that these clowns are saying these things. The problem is that they believe these things.

  16. swbarnes2 says:

    @Jen:

    I’ll point out here that the Catholic church is okay with terminating a pregnancy to save the life of the mother, so yes, we are talking about a position that is more extreme than that held by a religious institution.

    That may be their stated policy, but empirically, that’s not always how it goes down.

    (Trigger warning, these are not pretty stories)

    http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2636458/

  17. Jen says:

    @swbarnes2: Oh, I know. It’s tragic. I was attempting to illustrate that even Rick Santorum and his wife found the boundaries of the pro-life movement when it came to that.

    Thanks for pointing that out though, it reinforces the point I was trying to make: the Republican party needs to figure out where they stand with respect to this portion of the movement. Given the language in their platform, it’s pretty clear who is calling the shots, and it isn’t the pro-choice moderates in the party.

  18. edmond says:

    “May I note that the point at which Romney seemed to start making a race out of the contest was after the first debate, during which time he seemed to make a bit of move to the center.”

    TRANSLATION:

    Once he started lying about what he really wanted to do as President, he shot up in the polls.

  19. @edmond:

    Once he started lying about what he really wanted to do as President, he shot up in the polls.

    In fairness, it is quite unclear as to which Mitt was the real Mitt, but the salient point is that More Moderate Mitt seemed to poll better than did Severely Conservative Mitt.

  20. @Dean: I have to with Jen: Akin and Moudock represent a specific and significant strain of social conservative thought.

    They do not want there to be any exceptions, even in a hypothetical future, for abortions and so rape either has to a) never result in pregnancy (the Akin thesis) or, at a minimum, b) rape has to only be forcible rape (or, “legitimate” rape, again in the Akin formulation).

    There was attempt, co-sponsored by Akin, in fact, to limit the definition of rape in terms of any federal funds that might go towards paying for abortions: click..

    So, like it or not, the Akin position is in line with some segments of the socon movement.

    Moudock’s position is pretty standard pro-life evangelical.

  21. @john personna:

    I think the “needed to be more conservative” thing is innumaracy again.

    Agreed.

  22. de stijl says:

    Really Steven, are you just baiting?

    To which Steven replies:

    Go ‘way! Baitin’!

  23. Craigo says:

    It’s worth noting that presumed real conservative Rick Santorum made the exact same comment as Mourdock in January.

    Precisely, rape victims should “Accept what God has given you,” which is “the gift of human life.”

  24. Latino_in_Boston says:

    Yes, of course.

    But the people who are advancing that argument will never be convinced that Romney was too conservative, because to admit that would mean that what the country rejects what they stand for, and who would do that? Better to lie to oneself.

  25. @de stijl: Less baiting and more just feeling a bit cantankerousness, I suppose. 😉

  26. Xerxes says:

    Not true. Had Romney asserted the paleoconservative view to break up the big banks, which was what Ron Paul proposed, he would be on the receiving end of a 45-state victory over Obama