Mitt Romney, at the 2012 Republican National Convention in Tampa, Fla. (Lionel Hahn / Abaca Press…)
CHARLOTTE, N.C. — Mitt Romney must be wondering what he has to do to win the love of conservative stalwart William Kristol.
The Republican presidential candidate might have thought he would earn some degree of insulation from Kristol’s ideological and tactical arrows when he picked Kristol-favorite Paul Ryan as his vice presidential candidate. No such luck.
Kristol, the Weekly Standard editor and onetime chief of staff to Vice President Dan Quayle, fired off a couple more salvos in what has been a long-running barrage against Romney; the most recent shots coming after what was supposed to be the Republican’s Unity Conclave (read: Convention) in Tampa, Fla., last week.
Sounding every bit as critical as some Democrats, Kristol first hammered Romney’s failure, in his acceptance speech, to mention the war in Afghanistan and the brave work of the American military.
“Leave aside the question of the political wisdom of Romney’s silence, and the opportunities it opens up for President Obama next week,” Kristol wrote. “What about the civic propriety of a presidential nominee failing even to mention, in his acceptance speech, a war we’re fighting and our young men and women who are fighting it? Has it ever happened that we’ve been at war and a presidential nominee has ignored, in this kind of major and formal speech, the war and our warriors?”
Then Kristol piled on a bit, telling Chris Wallace on "Fox News Sunday" that Romney’s convention speech took the right shots at President Obama but failed to make enough of a case for himself as the alternative.
“If you believe, and I’m more inclined to this other belief, that you need to actually convince voters by making a positive case for the Romney-Ryan ticket, there was much less of that,” Kristol said.
Back in 2007, Kristol’s magazine used a cover cartoon to depict Romney as a stiff wind-up toy — extending his remarkably-lifelike left hand for a handshake with the world.
In the run-up to 2012, Kristol flirted with many conservatives who he preferred over the onetime private-equity kingpin — from Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels to Ryan to Florida Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida, to former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush. The conservative media icon late last year made a strong pitch — along with Nancy Reagan and News Corp. magnate Rupert Murdoch and others—to get New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie into the race.
Kristol and other conservatives have many problems with Romney’s flip-flopping history on issues like abortion and health insurance. (Romney loved the idea of a "mandate" required health coverage for all, when he was governor of Massachusetts, but decided he loathed the idea when he became a presidential candidate.)
Once the Bain Capital executive became the inevitable nominee, Kristol made no huge effort to temper his displeasure.
In July, the columnist called it “crazy” for Romney to be releasing only two years of his tax returns. "You gotta release six, eight, 10 years of back tax returns. Take the hit for a day or two,” he said in an interview.
Kristol has been quiet for a few days now when it comes to the Republican he loves to tolerate. But stay tuned. The first presidential debate is only a month away.
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