by Mitch Kokai
Senior Political Analyst, John Locke Foundation
What stands out about Romney and Gingrich, to me, is that they have in common a very unusual profile for a Republican politician. Both of them are fundamentally moderates: Very wonky Rockefeller Republicans who moved to the right over time as their party moved right and maybe as events persuaded them to move right, and they both still very much exhibit the technocratic countenance of the Rockefeller Republican—a program for every problem. Conservative humility about human nature and about the potential of technical solutions is not readily discernible in either one.
They’re also essentially in the same place politically—I can’t think of a single major issue on which Gingrich is more conservative than Romney, and with the possible exception of immigration (and perhaps Medicare reform, as I mention here, though it’s hard to be sure) I can’t think of one where Romney is more conservative. Substantively, their views are largely indistinguishable from one another. They’re part of a very broad consensus on policy among Republicans this year, which is one of the underreported stories of the year and is frankly in many ways a testament to Paul Ryan, who really defined the Republican agenda with his budget. The House Republican budget caused both Romney and Gingrich to take significantly more conservative positions on entitlement reform in particular than either one would otherwise have taken.
Moreover, both of them have moved back and forth on the same key issues in recent years—on health care, on climate, on immigration, on the social issues including the life issues; and these are obviously some of the most important issues to Republican voters. So the question of flip-flops, or the question of reliability, hangs heavy over both of them.