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Sunday, June 12, 2011

Romney and Unofficial Conservative Powers

Ben Smith writes at Politico:

The Drudge primary has begun, and Mitt Romney is winning.

The former governor of Massachusetts may be the punching bag of the conservative media, ridiculed on blogs and talk radio as a plasticine, untrustworthy flip-flopper and the grandfather of the hated Obamacare.

But on the Drudge Report, Matt Drudge’s no frills but enduringly influential website, Romney is simply the frontrunner (“ROMNEY WINS NH STRAW POLL”,), the “BILLION DOLLAR MAN,” and the president’s most implacable foe (“ROMNEY: FIRST THING I WOULD UNDO IS OBAMACARE”).

A survey of the last year’s worth of Drudge headlines found only one debatably negative reference to the 2002 Olympics CEO (“Bachmann outraises Romney”) — and a survey of aides to his rivals found a rising level of frustration at what one described as “favoritism” by one of the most important, if also one of the quirkiest, referees.

“One of the mysteries of Drudge is how he continues to be such a mystery. Never clear how or why he leans for or against candidates. But there is a lot of behind the scenes, very quiet and secretive mojo that goes on,” said Mark McKinnon, who, as a top adviser to Sen. John McCain in 2008, watched with dismay as Drudge gave top billing to — in particular — questions about the Arizonan’s health.

“It looks like someone in Romneyland has figured out the secret code,” McKinnon said.

Frustrated rivals think they know the secret: a low-profile, hard-driving Republican operative named Matt Rhoades, who is now Romney’s campaign manager. Rhoades met Drudge, as POLITICO Editor-in-Chief John F. Harris and Mark Halperin reported in their book “The Way to Win,” when he became research director of the Republican National Committee and was introduced by his predecessor on a special trip to Miami. Rhoades has since been seen as a pipeline to the reclusive editor, who now has two veteran Washington reporters working on the site as well.

As Kathleen Parker observes, however, Rush Limbaugh is not on board:

Now he’s in the “hot seat” on global warming, a Post headline informs us. Romney has said that he believes global warming is real and that humans are contributing to it.

Whoa! Sorry, bub, but if you’re a Republican presidential contender, this is not an ideologically approved position. None other than Rush Limbaugh says Romney is history — “Bye-bye, nomination.”

One can infer that Romney is not Limbaugh’s candidate of choice, but is it really so remarkable that Romney would accept scientific evidence that Earth’s climate is changing and that humans, because of their historically unprecedented carbon emissions, might contribute to that effect?

Never mind that Romney couched his comments with enough disclaimers to leave a T. rex wiggle room, even saying that he didn’t know the degree of human contribution, the crux of the debate. The mere mention of a human role (vs., presumably, a divine plan) was enough to bestir the guardians of scientific inquiry at Conservatives4Palin, who averred that Romney is “simpatico” with Obama and that he “totally bought into the man-made global warming hoax.”