That’s the case for Mitt Romney. Romney eked out a victory over Rick Santorum in the “must-win” Ohio primary, as well as four other states — including two states where his closest rivals weren’t even on the ballot. Santorum pulled off victories in Tennessee, Oklahoma, and North Dakota, while Newt Gingrich won Georgia. So, Romney is not defined by a string of game-changing Super Tuesday victories, so much as what he had to do to win even as much as he did.
At this point, it no longer matters whether Romney’s positions on the issues are based on what he genuinely believes, or whether he adopted them out a need to win his party’s nomination. They’re his how. He has no choice but to own them. Conservatives will hold Romney to them for the rest of the primary. They will keep him from straying too far from them in general election, and will demand that President Romney act on them.
As Mitt Romney positioned himself to win a primary contest that should have been over by know, he adopted or reiterated eight positions that hold devastating consequences for Americans struggling through this recession.
- Across-The-Board Tax Cut: As I pointed out last week, Romney’s new economic agenda would increase the national debt by $2.6 trillion, cost the government $6.2 trillion in “foregone revenue,” and push 10 million people into poverty — all in the name of a 20% tax cut.
- Embrace Rep. Paul Ryan’s Medicare Plan: Ryan’s plan would “end Medicare as we know it,” by changing it to a voucher-based “premium support” program that contributes to rising health care costs, and then passing those costs on to seniors.
- Veto the DREAM Act: A veto by President Romney would deny young immigrants a course to citizenship, and deny the country $3.6 trillion in economic output over 40 years — as a result of enabling these young people to start businesses, pay income taxes, and contribute to economic growth — in favor of Romney’s “self-deportation” plan.
- Give Student Loan Money Back to Wall Street: Under President Romney, student loan debt would continue to balloon even beyond the 2011 all-time record of $1 trillion, leaving students and families to contend with rising costs, without Pell Grants, government loans, or government loan forgiveness.
- Contraception: Along with the rest of the GOP field, has expressed a desire to restrict women’s access to contraception, even though the availability of contraception contributed to a 25% increase in the size of our economy by enabling more women to enter the workforce, and saved the taxpayers $3.4 billion helping women avoid unwanted pregnancies.
- Drug-Testing Welfare Recipients: Romney supports humiliating Americans who need government assistance, even though statistics show that welfare recipients are no more likely to abuse drugs than the general population, and only 1% failed drug tests in Indiana — one of the states that passed drug testing welfare recipients.
- Cut Federal Workers’ Pay: Romney would cut federal worker’s pay by 10%, while increasing the size of the military budget, despite the economic impact that an across-the-board pay cut would have on state and local economies.
- Supports National “Right-To-Work” Law: Romney has supported a national law similar to union-busting laws passed in Indiana and other states, even though they have the effect of lowering wages as much as $1,500 per year for union and non-union workers alike, have little positive impact, and don’t attract manufacturing jobs.
As I said above, whether these positions are based in genuine ideological conviction on Romney’s part, or simply a desire to win his party’s nomination, he owns them now. He has no choice but to own them, as he has to answer to a right wing that owns the Republican party. Ann Coulter wasn’t boasting when she told an audience at CPAC “We won! Folks, we won. There are no Rockefeller Republicans anymore! Conservatives won that fight.” She was stating a simple truth; the same truth that defines and informs Romney’s quest to win his party’s presidential nomination.
Despite not scoring a decisive sweep on Super Tuesday, Romney is still inching towards the Republican nomination. Conservatives are still inching towards Romney, and realizing that even though they’re not convinced that Romney is a “real” conservative, getting behind his nomination and supporting him in the general election increases their power in the party and over Romney himself. After all, he can’t hope to win without their support. Jonah Goldberg sums it up, making a case for Romney by writing “A president who owes you is better than one who owns you.”
If Mitt Romney wins his party’s nomination and goes on to win the presidential race, he will owe a debt to conservatives that they will not let him forget. And they, in turn, will own him for as long as he is — an wants to remain — president. Positioning himself farther and farther to the right is the price Romney will pay if he wants to win. The positions he adopts in order to win reflect what we all lose if Romney — and right-wing Republicans — win in November.