Blaming Tuesday’s defeat solely on Mitt Romney would be a mistake. It’s true that he wasn’t a perfect candidate, but there’s no such thing as a perfect candidate. It’s true, too, that he’s proven flexible as to his policy positions; but the (Groucho) Marxian line that “if you don’t like my principles, I have others” is widely applicable to politicians. The question for conservatives and Republicans is what, if any, adjustments might be needed to the principles we ask aspiring politicians to pretend to hold.
The standard GOP lines on foreign policy, spending, the economy, and abortion were undoubtedly important in Tuesday’s defeat in a way that immigration wasn’t, but my bailiwick is immigration. This is also the area where the GOP establishment leaps at any opportunity to slip its leash, having only grudgingly submitted to the views of its own voters. Even before the results were in, the establishment’s argument was that this defeat is proof that the Republican party has to embrace amnesty and unlimited immigration (“comprehensive immigration reform”) to get enough of the Hispanic vote to remain electorally viable. Jeb Bush and Clint Bolick have a book coming out on this very topic in March, presumably having figured that whatever the electoral outcome, they’d point to it as an excuse to push for open borders. The temptation for the Republican elite to go in this direction will be great, as it provides a convenient way of avoiding reconsideration of other parts of the GOP message more in need of a tune-up.