Mitt Romney’s private comments at a closed fundraiser have sparked yet another controversy and it seems the statement has deeply divided conservative leaders and GOP politicians.
The fact that Bill Krystol and several National Review columnists have said that Romney’s comments will be damaging to his campaign, while conservative campaign adviser Ed Rollins defends Romney says a lot about a growing split within the Republican Party. Krystol and the National Review (of William F. Buckley) represent an old school, pre-Reagan, pre-tea party conservatism and they are clearly more worried about electability than ideological purity. They now want Romney to backtrack in order to attempt to appeal to more moderate Republicans and Independents. Ed Rollins’ support does not come as a great surprise as he represents the other major wing of the GOP. Having worked on the campaigns of Reagan, Mike Huckabee and Michele Bachmann, Rollins is of the more, social conservative, tea party, purest conservative strain. These are the people who Romney was appealing to in his off the cuff remark. although they would vote for him over a democrat if he revealed himself to be the child of Satan and Mussolini.
Among elected officials, a split has been present over these comments as well. Those who have come out against Mitt are New England senate candidates Scott Brown and Linda McMahon who need to appeal to democrats in order to win in fairly blue states. Meanwhile tea-party hero Alan West and Chris Christie defend Romney from relative safety. Christie needs not seek re-election for over a year, while West is running in a slightly Republican district in the south.
The conservative movement in America is now clearly divided between those who kowtow to the tea-party and those who would rather follow the Eisenhower/Ford/Dole kind of republicanism that used to be so prevalent. Romney’s latest gaffe has now opened that divide among the elites of the party for the world to see.