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National Review Endorses Romney

Former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney earned a much-needed conservative shout-out today, winning the endorsement of National Review magazine, which called him "a natural ally of social conservatives" and said he is "a full-spectrum conservative: a supporter of free-market economics and limited government, moral causes such as the right to life and the preservation of marriage, and a foreign policy based on the national interest."

The endorsement from the conservative journal comes as Romney has fallen into second place in Iowa, behind former Arkansas governor Mike Huckabee, who has rapidly captured the support of many Christian conservatives, evangelical voters and homeschoolers. In the latest polls, Huckabee leads Romney by as much as 22 points. He also trails former New York mayor Rudolph Giuliani in national surveys of voters.

But the editors of National Review say that Huckabee and Giuliani would each, in different ways, rupture the coalition of conservatives that for years has helped elect Republicans to national office. "[Giuliani] and Mike Huckabee would pull apart the coalition from opposite ends: Giuliani alienating the social conservatives, and Huckabee the economic (and foreign-policy) conservatives," the magazine wrote. By contrast, they say, Romney would unite social, fiscal and foreign policy conservatives.

The magazine confronts what some critics say is Romney's biggest failing: his changing positions over the years. But the editors of the magazine conclude that the so-called "flip flops" are less severe than his critics would suggest. And they say he was "no Rockafeller Republican" even when he was running for office in Massachusetts.

The National Review concedes that Romney's campaign "has been plagued by the sense that his is a passionless, paint-by-the-numbers conservatism. And they urge him to show more emotion.

But in the end, the magazine concludes that Romney combines the best traits of President Bush while shedding the problematic ones. "Romney has President Bush's virtues and avoids his flaws. His moral positions, and his instincts on taxes and foreign policy, are the same. But he is less inclined to federal activism, less tolerant of overspending, better able to defend conservative positions in debate, and more likely to demand performance from his subordinates."

"A winning combination, by our lights," they conclude.

--Michael D. Shear

By Web Politics Editor  |  December 11, 2007; 6:41 PM ET
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