Remember those crazy days when Mitt Romney was struggling to defend himself as conservative enough against Rick Santorum in the Republican presidential primary? When was that? Oh yes, yesterday. President Obama's reelection campaign wants to make sure no one forgets that campaign. A day after Santorum dropped out of the race, Obama's campaign posted an ad on YouTube highlighting Romney's most conservative comments from the primary -- that he was "severely conservative," that he wanted to "end Planned Parenthood," that he would veto the Dream Act. And while the conventional wisdom says a candidate has to move back to the center after placating the wings of his party, conservatives says Romney has not fully placated them yet.
In an editorial Wednesday, The Wall Street Journal agrees that Santorum performed the role the Obama campaign appears quite happy about -- pushing Romney to come out with a conservative tax plan and reminding Republicans of the importance of evangelical voters -- but argues that was a good thing for Romney. The Washington Examiner's Byron York is not so sure. Chuck Laudner, the conservative activist who drove Santorum around in a truck before the Iowa caucuses, told York that Romney's "got a lot of votes to earn between now and November… It's going to take some time." Bob Vander Plaats said Romney has "got some bridges that need to be repaired, if not rebuilt." Vander Plaats is head of The Family Leader, the group whose candidate pledge asserted that women shouldn't be in combat and (briefly, before the plank was removed) that black families were more likely to stick together under slavery. But, York writes, "here's the touchy part for Romney: At the same time he has to inspire the conservative base that has always viewed him with skepticism, he also has to win the support of moderate and independent women all across the country who view conservative Republicans with skepticism." One would imagine it'd be tough to please both independent suburbanites and folks who reminisce about slavery. Romney can't shift too far, York says, or conservative activists needed to get out the vote in the fall will be "sitting on their hands." Politico's Jonathan Martin and Reid J. Esptein offer some data to show the importance of enthusiasm: in 2008, there were 7 percent more self-identified Democrats voting than self-identified Republicans. The last time that gap was so wide was in 1980, when Ronald Reagan crushed Jimmy Carter.
The most comical sign of conservatives' reluctance? BuffFeed's Andrew Kaczynski points out that the owner of the company that made Rick Santorum's sweater vest -- Bemidji Woolen Mills -- told WIND Chicago that he's not yet ready to say he's voting for Romney. This is important because the owner, Bill Batchelder, is an elected delegate to the Republican National Convention. "I'll do what Rick Santorum tells me to do," Batchelder said. "I've got to let the dust settle a little bit." Romney will have to win these guys over without giving the Obama campaign more material to work with.