Barnes: Press 'Loathes Romney for Moving Right on Social Issues'

Catching up with an article in last week's Weekly Standard (but with Mitt Romney making his last stand in Tuesday's Michigan primary it remains topical), veteran Washington journalist Fred Barnes, a regular panelist on FNC's Special Report, asserted that the press corps “loathes Romney for moving to the right on social issues.” In “The All-Too-Resistible Romney: He has everything going for him but voters,” Barnes, Executive Editor of the magazine, marveled:
I've been amazed at the raw antipathy that so many otherwise reasonable people in the media feel toward Romney. The word they use is "inauthentic." But all presidential candidates are inauthentic to one degree or another. Even Mr. Straight Talk, Senator John McCain, talks differently today about tax cuts and immigration than he used to, but the press doesn't hector him about it. There's something unique about Romney that repels the press...
An excerpt from the article in the January 14 edition of The Weekly Standard:
....He moved to the right on social issues -- abortion, stem cells, marriage, guns -- before entering the Republican race. And he has insisted that his new take on these issues represents the real Romney.

I suspect he's right about this. He was probably a good bit more conservative than he appeared when he ran as a moderate against Democratic senator Teddy Kennedy in 1994 (he lost) and for governor of Massachusetts in 2002 (he won).

But changing any of his positions under duress now would produce two results, both bad. The first is that switching probably wouldn't help his campaign. The second is that it would inflame a press corps that already loathes Romney for moving to the right on social issues.

I've been amazed at the raw antipathy that so many otherwise reasonable people in the media feel toward Romney. The word they use is "inauthentic." But all presidential candidates are inauthentic to one degree or another. Even Mr. Straight Talk, Senator John McCain, talks differently today about tax cuts and immigration than he used to, but the press doesn't hector him about it.

There's something unique about Romney that repels the press and keeps him from making a connection with hordes of Republican voters. What is it? Romney is obviously a decent guy with a devoted family. People who've worked for Romney speak of him in glowing terms. He succeeded famously in tougher environments -- business turnarounds, running the 2002 Winter Olympics -- than electoral politics. And he's the smartest guy in the presidential field.

I think his problem is that he's a technocrat who doesn't come across as a regular guy. Bush senior managed to overcome a similar problem and connect with voters. His years in Texas politics transformed Bush. He learned to talk comfortably about country music and ate pork rinds....
Brent Baker
Brent Baker
Brent Baker is the Steven P.J. Wood Senior Fellow and VP for Research and Publications at the Media Research Center