Since we are in that period of the presidential cycle where, like it or not, more attention will be paid each week to the upcoming national conventions (though they are by historical standards unusually late this year), I’d like to pass along this observation from Mike Tomasky that expresses better than I have the thing that must be kept in mind when discussing the “choices” Mitt Romney will make with respect to a running-mate and a convention operation:
These are the decisions—the vice president, the choreography of the convention—with which a nominee makes the party his own, erases that which preceded him. Bill Clinton did that dramatically for the Democrats in 1992 by being a New Democrat. George W. Bush did it, with compassionate conservatism, crock though it was. Barack Obama did it pretty much just by being who he was, supplying the Democrats with such a strongly felt sense that his election wasn’t just an election but a chapter in a long story of historical redemption. And all of them announced and elaborated their major themes long before the convention.
Who, in this context, is Mitt Romney? An ex-governor who can’t discuss his record, and an ex-capitalist who … is getting close to the point where he can’t discuss his record. And who has been afraid for two years, or more, lest he offend Rush Limbaugh and Fox. This is not his Republican Party. It’s theirs. And Romney has given us no reason to think that will change.
So the right questions aren’t so much what Romney “wants” to do, but what he has to do to meet the terms of perpetual probation under which he has become the “leader”–probably far too strong a word–of the Republican Party. Now it’s true the conservative movement which owns the GOP from top to bottom wants victory this year so badly that it won’t under any foreseeable circumstances turn its back on Romney. But Lord have mercy, if Mitt does anything to seriously discomfit conservative activists, whether it’s choosing an insufficiently militant running-mate, or denying them the opportunity to thrill at the ravings of Sarah Palin during the convention, waves will be made, and Team Romney does not seem to have a particularly high tolerance for turbulence.
So let’s not have any illusions that this is Mitt Romney’s party, or that its future is in any fundamental way subject to his choices.