Some good advice:
Let’s stipulate once and for all that Mitt Romney isn’t a perfect candidate, that he’ll have trouble connecting with some voters, and that he’ll at times fall short of compellingly articulating a reformist conservative agenda for the 21st century. We’ll further stipulate once and for all that the Romney campaign will be at times annoyingly ham-handed, at other times exasperatingly short-sighted, and will prove in general only imperfectly capable of presenting Romney to the American people as the right man for the job. And we’ll additionally stipulate that some Romney supporters will say silly things, that some Romney surrogates will make unconvincing arguments, that various elements of the Republican party will sometimes behave stupidly, and that even some conservatives will say embarrassing things as well.
It will all be water off our duck-like back here at The Weekly Standard. We won’t worry about it, and we’ll try not even to notice it, since there’s not much we can do about it. And the good news is that, at the end of the day, it will probably all be water off the voters’ backs too. Mitt Romney will be the kind of candidate he is, he’ll run the kind of campaign he runs—and he’ll probably defeat President Obama.
Indeed, he probably has a better chance to win if he relaxes and runs as . . . himself. Most candidates aren’t very good at trying to be what they’re not. In 1996, Bob Dole said he’d try to sound like Ronald Reagan if that’s what people wanted. He picked Jack Kemp as a running mate to try to spice up the ticket and embraced a tax plan he didn’t really believe in and couldn’t explain. It didn’t work.
In 2004, John Kerry, who had voted for the Iraq war for political reasons, overdid his attacks on the Bush administration to try to compensate. He sought preemptively to neutralize concerns over liberal dovishness by “reporting for duty” at the Democratic convention, which opened the door to the Swift Boat veterans and reminders of his antiwar testimony to Congress in 1971. He lost.
Mitt Romney is an intelligent, hardworking, pragmatic problem-solver with a conservative disposition. He might as well present himself that way. It will be easier than any alternative self-presentation, and has the added advantage that it’s probably what a majority of the country wants right now. So we say to our fellow conservatives: Let Romney be Romney.