The conventional wisdom of the chattering class has been that Romney is captive to the Republican Party's conservative base, desperate and anxious to maintain their tepid support. But his new appeal to the right marks a recognition that he can court conservatives without, in any traditional sense, "tacking right." His aggressive tactics stand in for the sort of policy compromises that could damage him in November; better, his advisers argue, to court conservatives with a press conference shouting match than with a high-profile fight over abortion or gay marriage. What’s more, they say, the media obsession with Romney “pandering” to the right represents a misunderstanding of conservatives, who can live with Romney’s moderate record – as long as he’s a fighting moderate.
"I thought we were going to see John McCain all over again,” said Brad Thor, a bestselling novelist and popular figure on the right who supported Santorum. “But you know what? That fire I've felt for previous candidates, I'm starting to feel it. And that surprise presser at Solyndra was like pouring accelerant on the fire."
Thor said when he heard about the Solyndra stunt, he cheered aloud: "Way to go Mitt!"
"My God, this is right out of Breitbart's playbook. I love it!" he said. "I swear to God, if he roller skates into the DNC convention, or hijacks an Obama press conference — if he does either one of those I’m going to give my kid’s college money to his Super PAC.”
That appetite for confrontation has a particular appeal for the vibrant online right.
"I unquestionably see more excitement on the right as Mitt Romney takes the gloves off and comes out fighting," said Kat McKinley, a Tea Party activist and blogger. "The more he does the opposite of what John McCain did, which was NOT fight, the more conservatives will like him.”
Romney’s aides and advisors tick off a series of punches and counterpunches that form the core of this new brand of conservative outreach, beginning with his staff’s decision to turn Democrats’ absurdist attacks on his treatment of a family dog into an absurdist assault on Obama’s memory of having eaten dog meat as a boy in Indonesia.
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