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RUSH: There was a column by Daniel Henninger in the Wall Street Journal (it’s some months ago now) and I’ll never forget this piece. Henninger writes really brilliant stuff pretty consistently. And in that column some months ago, he made the observation that Mitt Romney, a good guy, was always going to have to be nudged to conservatism; was always gonna have to be nudged to the right as he navigates his way through the Republican primaries. I think Henninger has been borne out; his piece is accurate. Romney has become a better debater.

But the real evidence of Henninger’s — I don’t know if it was desire, but certainly his prediction — came in the form of a revised tax plan that cut taxes across the board. Romney initially announced the tax cut plan. There were some people that complained that it contained the language of the left, the 99% versus the 1%. Romney reacted to it. He has also reacted, he’s changed in a proper way his announced support to the minimum wage. When he did that, there were people that rose up and said, “No, no, no! The conservative position on minimum wage is not what you said,” and he changed it. Now, some people are saying this is evidence that Mitt Romney can be nudged to the right.

It’s also evidence that he’ll change his mind. And if it goes one way, it could go back in the other direction, too. And this is one of the fears that people have. So now that Romney has embraced supply-side tax policy, what’s left? Well, he’s promised to “Cut, Cap, and Balance” the budget. He’s been pretty strong on immigration. The obvious issue is Romneycare. That’s the elephant in the room for Mitt Romney, and he knows it and everybody on his team knows it. Every Republican primary voter knows it. That’s a burr under the saddle for all conservatives, and Romney has been resistant to pressure to criticize his creation. That’s the one thing that he has not shown any flexibility on.

To that end, there are two good pieces in the Wall Street Journal that will keep the pressure on Romney. Daniel Henninger is back. Henninger traveled to Cuyahoga Falls, Ohio. He watched Santorum deliver a 35-minute speech that focused on the unfriendly ties between personal freedom and Obamacare. This has been Santorum’s theme: Freedom and how it is at stake. Freedom as we know it, freedom as it is defined in the Constitution and our founding documents. And Santorum is right on the money to focus on freedom and how it is being lost little by little, and in some cases by big gulps. So it’s a good theme for Santorum, and these two pieces in the Wall Street Journal.

Henninger writes that he watched Santorum deliver this 35-minute speech that focused on the unfriendly ties between personal freedom and Obamacare, and here’s what he concluded. “Rick Santorum should stay in the race, repeating from now till summer the perverse link between the Obamacare mandate and the American idea of freedom. It looks like the best argument the GOP nominee will have for a win in November.” It resonates with Americans. It does hit Romney where he’s vulnerable. On the same subject in the Wall Street Journal, Paul Gigot, who’s the editorial page editor, reports on an exit poll in Massachusetts about Romneycare.

Here’s a brief excerpt of Gigot: “The exit poll asked voters their opinion of the ‘Massachusetts Health Care Law,’ with the options of Did Not Go Far Enough, About Right and Went Too Far. Remarkably, 51% said the bill went too far, while only 37% said it was about right, and 6%,” a very small number, “said not far enough.” Gigot writes, “Granted these are GOP primary voters, who are largely conservatives. But the result reveals how unpopular government-mandated health care is, even in its Massachusetts birthplace. Mr. Romney says during debates that Romneycare is popular in [Massachusetts], and that’s true among all voters. But the exit poll shows why the health-care bill continues to be a political liability for the former governor in the GOP primaries.”

So you can see why Santorum has honed his message to focus on Romneycare, to focus on freedom. Santorum’s done his homework. He has (I don’t know), I guess, an intuitive feel that that’s what’s needed in the contest, ’cause he knows the American people — and the number is well over 50%, in some polls to get close to 60% — want Obamacare repealed. A vast majority of the American people understand full well what life in this country will be the moment that thing is fully implemented. They know in their collective guts that it’s a freedom-killer. They know that it’s going to bankrupt the country while destroying the doctor-patient relationship.

There’s nothing, nothing of any consequence that is an improvement or is any good in Obamacare. Not with 2,700 pages or 2,200 pages. Not with all the times the phrase “as the secretary shall determine” is repeated in this legislation. So what Santorum has concluded is that defeating Obama and repealing Obamacare is the key to the country’s survival as found. Obviously the American people want a leader they can trust and who will carry their message, fear, and anger, whatever, all the way to November. Now, if you watch the debates, it’s pretty clear that Santorum appears to know it pretty well. He understands its intricacies, and he’s out telling people that Romneycare is a liability.

And if Romney doesn’t find a way to deal with it to the satisfaction of Republican conservatives, he’s gonna take body blows all the way to the nomination, convention, or what have you. Now, I don’t know. People ask me how I think this is gonna turn out. And you know as well as I do. The conventional wisdom is that this is over. It’s gonna go on, but it’s over. The comparison I read yesterday was that Romney’s winning like Dukakis did in 1988. “He’s winning, but there’s not any big rah-rah attached to it — and he’s not winning as a strong, dominating victor but just plowing ahead.” So I don’t know. Conventional wisdom is that while it’s gonna go on a long time, that Romney is the nominee.

I’m just telling you that’s what the conventional wisdom is. It may well be, folks. I don’t know. Time will tell. Santorum may have started his surge a little too late here. We’ll see. A lot of it depends on how long Newt decides to stay in. But this is why the primaries are helpful to the party’s eventual nominee. They’re warned, they’re told, they are shown their weaknesses. They’re given the chance to learn and adjust. I’ll take you back to Henninger who pointed out months ago that Romney will be forced to be nudged to the right. He’ll not get there on his own, was Henninger’s point. But it’s been demonstrated that that kind of pressure can get Romney in that direction.

Now, there is a piece that ran in The Daily Beast yesterday. Let me quote to you from it. The Daily Beast is Newsweek. It’s not a conservative publication. “Consider this…” This is their statistical investigation. “[I]f Mitt wins every remaining all-or-nothing state but one, and half of the remaining proportional delegates, he would likely still fall short of the magic nomination number of 1,144…” Let me repeat that again. This is what they say The Daily Beast. If Romney “wins every remaining all-or-nothing state except one, and half of the remaining proportional delegates,” he’s still gonna come up short.

That “would force him to rely on unpledged delegates.” That’s the Republican version of the super-delegates that Obama needed in 2008 to beat Hillary. “[T]he delegate math,” according to their calculations (this is not gonna be good news for Axelrod and the Obama fundraisers) “shows that the earliest this contest could be over is May — and the latest, Utah in late June or even August in Tampa.” They say here, “Unless Santorum, Gingrich, or Paul can be prematurely pressured out, this contest will go on. Momentum drives the storyline, but math drives the delegate count, and that may be all that matters in this year’s proportional fight for the Republican nomination.”

Now, that’s just one take, but that’s the second place that I’ve seen that this thing could go on until May. I’m gonna double-check on this math, find out if it’s right, that if Romney wins every remaining all-or-nothing state but one and then half of the proportional delegates, he still is not over the top, then the math would be right, if it works out, it will go on to May, or maybe longer. And a lot of people, “Oh, gosh, we gotta wrap it up, Rush, with all the dirty laundry being aired.” I’m not convinced of that. The longer this goes on the longer Obama can’t attack our nominee because we don’t have one. You’ve heard ’em salivating over what they’ve got waiting for Romney. We’ve had the sound bites. This week, previous weeks, they’re bragging about the opposition research they’ve got on Romney.

It’s gonna be brutal. It’s gonna be like nothing we’ve ever seen. They can’t wait to unleash it. They’re out there saying there’s no way Romney can stand up to it. But they can’t deploy it until Romney’s the nominee. The longer Obama is delayed, along with his sycophants in the media from attacking our nominee, the better. I also happen to agree with this notion that the longer this thing goes on and the longer it takes for the realization to sink in that conservatism is what will be the deciding factor whether we win or lose, that that’s good, too. We’ll see.

Now, there are of course differing points of view. One of them is Senator McCain, who was on Face the Nation on Sunday. And McCain said, (imitating McCain) “Look, the longer this goes on, the worse our chances are. I mean, I have to tell you, it makes me very, very worried about our chances to win in November the longer this goes on. I don’t like it. I don’t like it one bit. Full speed 360.” So both points of view there. Of course the establishment’s worried about this. This isn’t what’s supposed to happen at all. This was supposed to be over before it started, really. Splitting the conservative vote was supposed to guarantee victory for Romney. It hasn’t worked out that way.

So that’s the latest take on this and where we all are. These two Wall Street Journal pieces, and the Wall Street Journal you would have to say would be inclined to be in the Romney camp. You got two pieces here pointing out the big problem still remains Romneycare, being nudged to the right. No, I don’t think Romney can denounce it now, he can’t renounce, he can’t go back. It’s too late for that. So he’s got a different challenge with it. What Santorum is learning is that he’s got a theme now. All he’s gotta do, not a multiple faceted message, but just one or two things, and one of them is freedom and Obamacare, and it’s resonating.


RUSH: The longer the primaries go on, the longer Romney will have to sound conservative. Maybe it will become a habit. And I want to stress, I’ve not picked anybody. Nothing’s changed. None of this represents a preference or a choice. I’m looking at what’s out there and I’m telling you what’s out there, pure and simple. Nothing more. So far Romney has 52% of the delegates. He only needs 48% of the remaining delegates. It’s eminently doable. The conventional wisdom is it’s over, it’s just gonna take some time. And that’s what the math indicates.

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