Inside the Beltway: Reading Romney

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Forget about “inevitable.” Is Mitt Romney a fierce conservative or an agile, middle-of-the-road guy? As the Republican hopeful barrels down the campaign trail and toward a spate of fundraisers in New York and New Jersey, strategically minded Democrats wonder how to categorize President Obama’s rival-in-chief. Some want to paint Mr. Romney as a dangerous, right-wing extremist sort of guy.

Multiple press accounts say former President Bill Clinton, White House senior adviser David Axelrod, former Obama spokesman Bill Burton and other insiders concur that Mr. Romney should no longer be framed as vapid flip-flopper. Now they talk up him up as an arch conservative with a bristling agenda who is “prepared to unleash this terror” on the public just as soon as he gets into the White House. So says Mediaite analyst Noah Rothman, who has been connecting the dots all week and deems the method “heavy-handed” and possibly laughable.

But wait. Some journalists also contend that Mr. Romney has abandoned uber-conservative values he adopted earlier in the campaign in favor of some nice, approachable centrist fare with wider voter appeal.

Mitt Romney is shifting from the deep conservatism he displayed before wrapping up the Republican presidential nomination toward a more centrist platform in an effort to appeal to independent voters who will decide whether he or President Obama wins in November,” insists Washington correspondent Steven Hurst.

Perhaps Mr. Romney is in an altogether different dimension. A terse one. He is mixing up a little hopey-changey, some Reagan optimism and values talk with economic horse sense — all in 25 words or less. The candidate continues to tell his audiences: “A better America begins today” and “We have a moral responsibility not to spend more than we take in.”

CROSS-REFERENCING

Rep. Paul Ryan may get a chilly reception when he arrives at Georgetown University on Thursday morning to deliver the annual “Whittington Lecture” to students. The Wisconsin Republican will offer a major policy speech titled “Americas Enduring Promise,” which underscores his vision for the federal budget. Ninety faculty members at the campus are not happy that Mr. Ryan will be among them, however, and have sent him a lengthy letter to that effect.

“Our problem with Rep. Ryan is that he claims his budget is based on Catholic social teaching,” said the Rev. Thomas J. Reese, an organizer. “This is nonsense. As scholars, we want to join the Catholic bishops in pointing out that his budget has a devastating impact on programs for the poor.”

The academics saw fit to include a copy of the Vatican’s Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Church, commissioned by Pope John Paul II, to help the lawmaker “deepen” his understanding of Catholic social teaching, they say.

“I am afraid that Chairman Ryan’s budget reflects the values of his favorite philosopher, Ayn Rand, rather than the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Survival of the fittest may be OK for Social Darwinists, but not for followers of the gospel of compassion and love,” the Jesuit Father Reese adds.

BILL FOREVER

“Bill’s immense talent, intellect and raw convictions are an extremely rare combination in television. … He is a tremendous force in the business and has helped to make Fox News the success story it is today.”

- Fox News Channel chairman and CEO Roger Ailes, on why he signed stalwart host Bill O’Reilly to a new multiyear contract. And, oh yes. “The O’Reilly Factor ” has led cable prime-time ratings for the past 125 months, averaging 2.9 million nightly viewers.

MOMMY WARS DE-ESCALATE

“More voters think Mitt Romney and the Republican Party respect women who work outside the home than think President Obama and the Democrats respect women who stay at home,” says a survey of 1,000 likely voters conducted by the Hill newspaper on April 19.

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