There’s dispute about how much influence NR really has these days with the Republican base, but I think this is an important endorsement. Key paragraphs:
Uniting the conservative coalition is not enough to win a presidential election, but it is a prerequisite for building on that coalition. Rudolph Giuliani did extraordinary work as mayor of New York and was inspirational on 9/11. But he and Mike Huckabee would pull apart the coalition from opposite ends: Giuliani alienating the social conservatives, and Huckabee the economic (and foreign-policy) conservatives. A Republican party that abandoned either limited government or moral standards would be much diminished in the service it could give the country.
Two other major candidates would be able to keep the coalition together, but have drawbacks of their own. John McCain is not as conservative as Romney. He sponsored and still champions a campaign-finance law that impinged on fundamental rights of political speech; he voted against the Bush tax cuts; he supported this year’s amnesty bill, although he now says he understands the need to control the border before doing anything else.
Despite all that and more, he is a hero with a record that is far more good than bad. He has been a strong and farsighted supporter of the Iraq War, and, in a trying political season for him, he has preserved and even enhanced his reputation for dignity and seriousness. There would be worse nominees for the GOP (see above). But McCain ran an ineffectual campaign for most of the year and is still paying for it.
Fred Thompson is as conservative as Romney, and has distinguished himself with serious proposals on Social Security, immigration, and defense. But Thompson has never run any large enterprise — and he has not run his campaign well, either. Conservatives were excited this spring to hear that he might enter the race, but have been disappointed by the reality. He has been fading in crucial early states. He has not yet passed the threshold test of establishing for voters that he truly wants to be president.
For some people, Romney’s Mormonism is still a barrier. But we are not electing a pastor. The notion that he will somehow be controlled by Salt Lake City or engaged in evangelism for his church is outlandish. He deserves to be judged on his considerable merits as a potential president. As he argued in his College Station speech, his faith informs his values, which he has demonstrated in both the private and public sectors. In none of these cases have any specific doctrines of his church affected the quality of his leadership. Romney is an exemplary family man and a patriot whose character matches the high office to which he aspires.
I’m glad they confronted the anti-Mormon stuff head on. I still think Giuliani is the best bet, but Romney is more acceptable to me than either Huckabee or McCain.