(Image:  Politico)

A recent ad has Mitt Romney showcasing his differences with Newt Gingrich.  The ad never mentions the former speaker by name but it’s clear he, and Obama secondarily, is the target of the ad:

“I’ve been married to the same woman for 25 – excuse me, I’ll get in trouble – for 42 years. I’ve been in the same church my entire life. I worked at one company, Bain, for 25 years. And I left that to go off and help save the Olympic Games. If I’m president of the United States, I will be true to my family, to my faith, and to our country, and I will never apologize for the United States of America.”

The ad itself is a suitable complement to one of the more awkward exchanges at last Saturday’s Republican presidential candidates’ debate.

When pressed by moderator George Stephanopoulos on places where he and Gingrich disagree, Romney sputtered before finally spitting out how they disagree over a lunar colony . . . and vaguely about capital gains taxes.

The answer Romney chose was certainly an obscure one.  Of all the topics that ought to distinguish the establishment candidate from the conservative insurgent one might expect something more relevant than a lunar colony.

Romney’s pause was also telling.  His partisans might claim that the former governor was surprised by such a quick follow-up – Stephanopoulos interrupted Romney in order to press the issue – but the pause also shows that even Romney must know that there’s no substantive difference between them.  As we get closer to voting time we should probably expect to see more ads emphasizing the personal differences between Romney and Gingrich.

Christine O’Donnell’s endorsement of Romney is likewise illustrative.

At first glance this news would appear surprising.  Running for the U.S. Senate in 2010, O’Donnell was identified as a fire-and-brimstone social conservative true believer.

The campaign itself was noted more for cultural than political issues:  past statements about witchcraft, sexuality, and evolution.  Irrelevant to any senate campaign, her views on those issues and her personal history were dredged up and O’Donnell became the liberal media’s personification of a social conservative bogeyman er, woman.

O’Donnell’s actual political positions, on the other hand, were well within the mainstream of the Republican Party:  balanced budget amendment, repeal of Obamacare, no new taxes.

Her media appearances in the preceding years as a PR consultant also showed that she wasn’t rigidly ideological.  Despite the name of her book, Troublemaker, and her PAC’s claim that its mission will allow her to, among other things, “support conservative candidates against the ‘liberal-controlled GOP establishment’” during the 2012 party primaries” she was never going to upset the apple cart.  It seems that when it comes to the presidential nomination, the “liberal-controlled GOP establishment” candidate can be trusted after all.

In my recent piece about the latest GOP debate, I called Michele Bachmann’s characterization of the two front-runners as “Newt Romney” as a little lame.  She actually was correct but not for the reason she says.

She’s right that Gingrich and Romney are basically the same candidate.  Each are shameless flip-floppers that should offend any conservative’s sensibilities.  Yet conservatives are contorting themselves in an attempt to convince themselves that either of them might be better than the current president.  In her statement, O’Donnell says,

“[t]his endorsement comes down to trust. I am endorsing Governor Romney because I trust him to do the right thing. He has the strength of conviction to do the right thing regardless of opposition.” 

Absent from her statement was any credible evidence she can cite to justify her statement that Romney is anything but a flip-flopper willing to say anything to get elected.  Why does she “trust him to do the right thing”?  Does she have any personal information that gives her reason to believe he wouldn’t flip-flop this time?  Or is she going to support the Republican nominee regardless and is just avoiding the rush?

Bachmann was right to lump Gingrich and Romney together.  It’s not that Gingrich and Romney are both establishment men pretending to be conservative.  It’s that there is rarely a distinction anymore.

Carl Wicklander
Carl Wicklander is a regular contributor to humblelibertarian.com. He lives in Illinois with his wife.

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