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Another step away from being a center-right nation

March 2, 2012 - Mike Maneval
Back in September 2009, in a post I titled "A Center-Right Nation No More?" I questioned if the modern conservative movement was capable of working with centrists to retain a national identity as a center-right nation, or if the movement was too contempteous and even hostile to the ideologically impure to compromise in centrist fashions.

Another sign of the U.S. government drifting away from the center-right came in the last debate between candidates for the Republican presidential nomination, in Mesa, Ariz. Former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney, who would go on Tuesday to win primaries both in Arizona and Michigan and remain the frontrunner of the nominating process, challenged former U.S. Sen. Rick Santorum of Pennsylvania on his endorsement of then-Republican Senator Arlen Specter in his 2004 bid for reelection. Romney observed Specter voted for President Barack Obama's health care reform law and is "pro-choice."

These are the only two pieces of information Romney offered regarding Specter. The presidential candidate had nothing to say about Specter's record of voting for Americans for Tax Reform's agenda 85 percent of the time in 2003 and 2004 and 70 percent of the time in 2005 and 2006. Nor did he have anything to say about Specter voting for the U.S. Chamber of Commerce's agenda 87 percent of the time in 2004, 88 percent of the time in 2005, and, in 2005 with no elections looming to pressure him into reassuring Pennsylvania's Republicans, 100 percent of the time.

Even groups that hold so-called socially conservative views acknowledge Specter often aligned with their interests. In 2006, Specter voted for the Traditional Values Coalition's preferences 60 percent of the time, while in 2005-06 he voted with Concerned Women of America's agenda 88 percent of the time. While there certainly were years when Specter often voted against these activists and similar groups' agendas - such as a 25-percent rate with the Eagle Forum in 2005 and 20 percent and 19 percent with the Christian Coalition and Concerned Women for America in his last session, respectively - these years are hardly any more demonstrative of Specter's philosophy than his 89-percent rate with Concerned Women for America in 2003, or his 83-percent rate with the Christian Coalition the same year. And all of this information is easily available at

And yet Santorum's endorsement of the lawmaker who earned this record both for independent streaks and for often working with conservatives in ways that assisted them in securing goals is, in Romney's mind, a detriment, possibly even a disqualification from governing a country of more than 311 million, where many of the president's constituents will have much more severe and intractable disagreements with whoever holds the office than Romney actually has with Pennsylvania's independent-minded former senator, Arlen Specter.


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