Sunday, July 8, 2007

Reasons to be sMITTen

In the News

The Economist

He looks presidential. In some ways, he is the most accomplished candidate...

You can't accuse Mitt Romney of skirting the tricky issues. Addressing the National Right to Life Convention in Kansas City on June 15th, he said: “I am humbled to be standing among the many who have toiled for the pro-life movement for so long, when I arrived at this place of principle only a few years ago.” In the circumstances, humility was his only option.

Of the main declared contenders for the Republican presidential nomination, Mr Romney is the most socially conservative. Abortion, gay marriage, foetal stem-cell research—he's against them all. But in 2002, when he ran for governor of Massachusetts, he said that while he personally opposed abortion, he thought it should be a private choice. That helped him win in one of America's most liberal states. Now, as he faces Republican primary voters, he says he has changed his mind.

His explanation is that while he was governor he had to grapple with the issue of cloning human embryos. He spoke to scientists who said they created “racks and racks” of embryos to experiment on, and then destroyed them. He realised, he says, that “the harsh logic of an absolute right to abortion had cheapened the value of human life to the point that rational people saw a human embryo as nothing more than mere research material.”

So now he wants to overturn Roe v Wade, the 1973 Supreme Court decision that created a constitutional right to an abortion. Pro-life Christians are receptive to the idea of conversion: Ronald Reagan did it, after all. Mr Romney got a standing ovation in Kansas City. Granted, it was not as ecstatic as the applause that greeted Sam Brownback, another presidential wannabe whose pro-life credentials are beyond question. But Republicans are practical folk. They want a candidate who can win. Mr Brownback cannot. Mr Romney just might.

Reasons to be sMITTen...

Willard “Mitt” Romney is the most under-rated of candidates. As recently as February, barely half of Americans had heard of him. Political junkies know who he is, but often assume his bid for the White House is doomed because he is a Mormon. That is certainly a handicap: one-fifth of voters say they would not vote for one. But Mr Romney thinks that once they get to know him, they will change their minds.

He may be right.