Why Mitt Romney’s True Beliefs Don’t Matter

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By Francis Wilkinson

A fair amount of journalistic inquiry over the past year has focused on what Mitt Romney truly believes in his heart. The Republican candidate's prepared remarks to the NAACP today rekindled the topic:

"I believe that if you understood who I truly am in my heart," Romney said, "and if it were possible to fully communicate what I believe is in the real, enduring best interest of African American families, you would vote for me for president."

Less than a decade ago, Romney was a moderate Northeastern governor whose signature achievement was a health-care reform that used the redistributive power of the state to extend medical care to the bottom half of income earners. As a 2012 presidential candidate, by contrast, Romney has espoused views consistent with the Republican Party's culturally conservative Southern base and laissez-faire business base. Immigrants? Deport them. Taxes? Lower them. Health care for all? Nope.

So the fascination with Romney's heart is perhaps understandable. But is the answer really so elusive?

Romney has spent the past several years fashioning himself into a human meme of Republican orthodoxies. He has not shaped the party in any noticeable, let alone significant, way. The party has shaped him. To win its nomination, he has embodied the values of its most powerful and ascendant wings. This is hardly surprising, although previous candidates perhaps hewed less rigorously to the party mean; George W. Bush imposed "compassionate conservatism" and other tropes from Texas in 2000, while John McCain gained the nomination in 2008 without ever abandoning his renegade views on campaign finance.

The only "real" Romney that matters is the Republican standard bearer currently running for president. There is no mystery about what this Romney stands for: low taxes on the wealthy, large cuts in entitlement spending (for rich and poor alike) and, as post-1980 Republican history and the Romney-endorsed Ryan budget plan both suggest, deficit financing of these and other efforts.

Romney represents the Republican Party. And the party's an open book.

(Francis Wilkinson is a member of the Bloomberg View editorial board. Follow him on Twitter.)

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-0- Jul/11/2012 16:01 GMT