Phil Klein, whose thinking is referenced by Ben Domenech below, is in all likelihood right. Mitt Romney is no more a socialist than Bloomberg. But he has never been a conservative, and in the past -- before he moved to the national stage -- he distanced himself as much as possible from conservatives and even from the Republican Party. In the 1990s, when he was the Republican nominee for the Senate in Massachusetts, he insisted that he was not the same kind of Republican as Ronald Reagan. A decade later, he insisted that he was "a progressive" in his views and that he should be thought of as "a reformer" and not as a Republican. His record in office as Governor of Massachusetts -- with regard to Romneycare and global warming, for example -- is consistent with this. He deserves our support in the upcoming election but he has not earned and should not be accorded our trust.
That having been said, I would not rule out the possibility that Romney will as President earn that trust. Circumstances -- and I have in mind the grave fiscal crisis threatening the administrative entitlements state -- may persuade him to rethink. He is a man of goodwill and evident integrity. Moreover, he knows a failing enterprise when he sees it; he recognizes the limits of the state's capacity to extract revenue from those who actually work; he has seen the threat that the administrative entitlements state poses to religious and political liberty. If he is in any way intellectually agile, he will by now have realized that the path he was on as Governor in Massachusetts is unsustainable and that, when pursued at the federal level, it will concentrate power and influence in the hands of the federal government on a scale inconsistent with our retention of the liberties we have enjoyed for more than two hundred years.
I realize that there is something to the adage: "You cannot teach an old dog new tricks." At my previous university, I watched one new president after another arrive on the scene, and I learned that, if I really wanted to know what he would do, all that I had to do was to call someone who worked at the institution he had most recently served. But I persist in entertaining the possibility that some old dogs do learn new tricks. At Bain Capital, Romney got a reputation as a chameleon. He took on the coloration, so to speak, of the institution he was trying to turn around. He adopted its culture; he joined its team.
Romney's flexibility is, needless to say, worrisome. But it offers hope as well.