Why Romney Is Too Moderate to Beat Obama

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For the last three months, Rick Santorum and Newt Gingrich have been
repeating the same argument against Mitt Romney: He’s a moderate, and a
moderate Republican can’t win the White House. Naturally, given
Gingrich’s stature as a historian, the critique dredges up memories of
campaigns past. “We tried a moderate in 1996, and he couldn’t debate
Bill Clinton effectively,” Gingrich said
in January. “We tried a moderate in 2008. He couldn’t debate Barack
Obama effectively and lost.” Santorum, too, has invoked the gruesome
specters of Bob Dole and John McCain. “Look at the races in the last 30
years,” he chimed in
last month. “[When] we nominated a moderate: McCain, Dole, Gerald Ford.
When George [H.W.] Bush ran for re-election back in 1992 … [They] all
lost.”

The argument is incredibly self-serving—both men invariably cast
themselves as Reagan-esque antidotes to Romney’s flaccid centrism. It’s
also highly counterintuitive: As much as conservatives like to believe
the average American aligns with their worldview, the country is clearly
far, far more progressive than the typical Tea Partier. (Not
surprisingly, polls have consistently shown Romney faring much better against Barack Obama than either rival.)
But that doesn’t make the argument untrue! Indeed, if the last week or
so has taught us anything, it’s that Romney’s reputation for moderation
could be a major liability against Obama.

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