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Rightbloggers Prepare to Swallow Their Santorum and Root for Romney

Since the recent Iowa one-two finish by Romney and Santorum, there've been a couple more debates and a lot of palaver about the GOP Presidential race.

But let us level with you: Despite all our jokes about The Next President of the United States of The Week/Month, it's become painfully obvious that the relatively moderate Mitt Romney will be the nominee.

How can we tell? Rightbloggers, who've heretofore been giddily following whatever Great Right Hope might defeat Mittens, are glumly getting with the program.

Some bigtime conservatives have already called it for Romney. "Unless something terrible comes out about him in the next few weeks, Mitt Romney will be the Republican nominee," said John Podhoretz at the New York Post. Michael Barone "recorded this thought in my notes, '[Romney] just clinched the nomination.'"

Even those who couldn't go all the way seemed to be warming toward Romney, or at least working on their plausible deniability.

"[Romney] even showed some comic timing" at a recent debate, said Jonathan V. Last at The Weekly Standard. "Who wouldn't want to vote for that guy?" (Last said of Romney just weeks ago, "Voters just don't like him very much. And they never have.")

"Some of the candidates, by now, know they cannot win. As such, they have little incentive to attack Romney," said Matt K. Lewis of the Daily Caller. "Meanwhile, the candidates who think they can win -- Rick Santorum and Newt Gingrich -- probably believe their best shot at the nomination is to finish second in New Hampshire."(On January 4, Lewis wrote, "it appears the [Republican] field is winnowing -- and this could deal a huge blow to the campaign of Romney.")

Some held out hope, but with their fingers crossed. Aaron Goldstein of The American Spectator affected to be juiced by Santorum's recent debate performance. "Santorum Goes For Romney's Jugular," he wrote. "Finally!!! Rick Santorum puts it point blank to Romney. If your record in Massachusetts was so great why didn't you run for re-election? Why did you bail out? ... Romney had an Anderson Cooper moment and turned to David Gregory for help...The seeds of doubt have been planted."

But... "The question," Goldstein closed, "is will they germinate in time for the vote in South Carolina." Now that's how the pros hedge!

Some were sour about it. "It would appear that all of the not-Romneys, once again, refused to as much as scratch at the veneer of that smarmy, two-faced, opportunist son of a bitch Mittens," snarled the dead-ender Anti-Idiotarian Rottweiler, "for reasons that will remain unclear to us until the day that we die."

Romney got some surprising defenses from surprising defenders. At RedState, Daniel Horowitz (author of "They Didn't Want Mitt in 2008, They Don't Want Him Now") was upset that some nonRoms, notably Gingrich, were giving Romney a hard time about his firing spree at Bain Capital. "They should have praised Romney's record as a businessman while ticking off his liberal vices and his terrible record as Governor, most prominently, his record on healthcare," he groused. "Instead, they chose an awkward position - one that placed them to Romney's left on free-market entrepreneurship." Imagine, running to the left of Mitt Romney! How could anyone win that way?

"Gingrich's attack seemed even more out of place considering that it was at a Republican debate," agreed Doug Mataconis. "As ridiculous an issue as it is, one can easily see a Democrat going after Romeny on this issue, why Gingrich was giving them ammunition for the General Election is beyond me."

As often happens when things don't go their way, many of the brethren just yelled at the liberal media -- mainly, in this case, debate moderator George Stephanopoulos, who asked repeatedly for candidates' position on legal contraception.

John Presnall from First Things scored "Stephanopoulos' tiresome and persistent questioning on contraception." At National Review, Hugh Hewitt claimed that when Stephanopoulos asked about it, "the nation groaned." At the same site, Marc A. Thiessen went further and reported, when Gingrich "turned the question around and asked why no one was concerned about anti-Christian bigotry," that "the Twitterverse erupted and ever those who do not support his candidacy cheered him."

"ABC commentator George Stephanopoulos was called out this morning after his ridiculous and biased performance last night," said Jim Hoft of The Gateway Pundit. Hot Air's Ed Morrissey laughed that the candidates were being asked about "contraception, which was a pressing issue as recently as ... 1965."

One would never know from all this that Rick Santorum wants to ignore the 1965 Supreme Court Griswold contraception ruling, and insists states still have a right to ban it, which he would prefer. So were Santorum to be the nominee, 1965 would be very relevant indeed.

P.J. Salvatore offered an explanation at Big Journalism: that Stephanopoulos' question was "based on the illogical presupposition of a Santorum stance, one which he was not given the courtesy of clarifying before moderators proceeded with their misdirected question." By "clarifying," we suppose she means, "wisely backtracking from."

Some didn't like that the moderators asked about gay stuff, either. "What explains the media's obsession with gays?" asked Robert Stacy McCain. The short answer would be, unlike Republican debates, gay people attract an audience.

(Which brings us to Ramparts360's question: "I wonder when are we going see a Tea Party debate? Imagine if Mark Levin and Rush Limbaugh were moderating the line of questioning? Or Erick Erickson or Andrew C. McCarthy?" C-Span, here's your big ratings opportunity!)

Well, at least people who hate gay people still love Santorum -- though there was one guy for whom even Santorum wasn't anti-gay enough.

 

National Review's Terence P. Jeffrey was infuriated that Santorum gave an insufficiently homo-hating answer on the legality of same-sex couples adopting children (the candidate said it was "a state issue, not a federal issue," though he assured voters that he would try and do away with gay marriage, thus mooting the question.)

"It was, is, and always will be wrong for any government to hand over in an adoption the custody of a child to a homosexual couple," thundered Jeffrey, because that "violates the God-given right of the child to be raised by a mother and father who respect (and intend to teach the child) those basic laws of morality that a homosexual couple -- by the very fact that they are publicly cohabitating as homosexuals -- are publicly flouting."

"Candidates who are afraid to say 'no' to this fundamental question in a presidential campaign," Jeffrey concluded, "will be afraid to stand up to the liberal media on other profound questions if they are elected president."

As to how a candidate might get nominated for, never mind elected to, the Presidency on such a platform in 2012, Jeffrey remained silent. With even Commentary saying Santorum's anti-gay absolutism "will help pigeonhole him as a rabid cultural warrior," it would seem the leading nonRom in the race has no chance.

The current consensus of the rightblogs may be seen in Ryan Mauro's judgment at the PJ Tatler that while Romney's "supporters were never given a compelling reason to jump ship," Santorum had "his best debate yet and it will help him solidify his position as the alternative to Romney." In other words, as National Review's Kathryn J. Lopez seemed to hope, the trimmer Romney will be the nominee, and will take on Santorum, or someone similarly radical, as his running mate to appeal to the religious maniacs without whom he cannot win. It's a GOP tradition!

As the Romney tide rises, some of the brethren are already looking forward to 2016. "Is Jon Huntsman the Future of the Republican Party?" asked James Joyner. Joyner explained that many Republicans seek ideological purity in their candidates because they don't know that their heroes had actually been bluffing.

"Reagan fundamentally understood the difference between campaigning and governing," Joyner said. "While he continued Red baiting, he immediately seized the opportunity to work with Mikhail Gorbachev to reduce the threat of thermonuclear war... while abortion remained part of his stump speeches, he understood that... it wasn't worth wasting much political capitol doing anything about it."

We can see how this might be the future of the GOP; the problem is, it's also its past.


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