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Why do conservatives dislike Romney?

A friend who, I think, would describe himself as a moderate Democrat, writes to say he cannot for the life of him understand why so many conservatives dislike Romney from a policy standpoint. On style and character, my friend gets it; he says Romney is wholly smarmy. But on policy? Romney is a by-the-books Republican. So what gives? My friend can’t figure out why any Republican finds Romney so detestable that they would go all-in for an “unelectable” Republican like Santorum or Gingrich.

I confess I don’t understand this either. I find Romney very tough to take on a personal level, but on policy, the things I generally dislike about his positions are the things I dislike about the positions of all the GOP presidential hopefuls (save for Ron Paul) — in particular, the fiscal unrealism and foreign policy aggression. As I explained in an e-mail to my Democratic friend, I’d think more highly of the prospect of Republican leadership if that crew — again, Paul excepted — had shown any sign at all of having learned from the huge economic and national security mistakes of the Bush years.

This is why I don’t understand Obama panic on the Right. I run into conservatives all the time who really do believe that Obama’s re-election is an existential threat to the United States. If they’re talking about debt crashing the economy, well, okay — but I can see absolutely no reason to believe that the Republicans would be any more responsible on this front than the Democrats (again, see 2001-2009). I don’t care for Obama’s governance either, but how, exactly, has he been anything other than an anodyne Democrat? He has been a big disappointment to the Left on civil liberties, on Wall Street reform, and even to an extent on foreign policy. Aside from Obamacare, where, exactly, are the attributes that make the continuance of his government an existential threat to America? Or is that the story Republican partisans have to tell themselves to stomach voting for the uninspiring field of candidates they have?

Anyway, the latest Fox News poll suggests that Republicans nationwide are starting to submit to the fact that love him or loathe him, Romney is inevitable.

about the author

Rod Dreher is a senior editor at The American Conservative. He has written and edited for the New York Post, The Dallas Morning News, National Review, the South Florida Sun-Sentinel, the Washington Times, and the Baton Rouge Advocate. Rod’s commentary has been published in The Wall Street Journal, Commentary, the Weekly Standard, Beliefnet, and Real Simple, among other publications, and he has appeared on NPR, ABC News, CNN, Fox News, MSNBC, and the BBC. He lives in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, with his wife Julie and their three children. He has also written four books, The Little Way of Ruthie Leming, Crunchy Cons, How Dante Can Save Your Life, and The Benedict Option.

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