Sometime soon — perhaps as early as tomorrow night, possibly in a couple of weeks, but at any rate by the end of spring — Mitt Romney is almost certainly going to be properly recognized as the Republican nominee for president. And be ready: you're going to hear some hard spinning about how Romney's nomination proves that Republicans are really moderate on social issues. It doesn't.
For a preview, see Republican operative Ed Rogers over at "The Insiders" today arguing that if Romney is the winner on Super Tuesday it will show that Republicans don't care about social issues:
Tomorrow’s Super Tuesday primaries will offer a good reality check of where the Republican Party really stands on social issues vs. economic issues in 2012 ... Whether or not the GOP gets it and how badly we want to win in 2012 will be clearer on Wednesday morning after the votes are counted.
The problem with this theory is that all that's really at stake is how, and how frequently, Republican candidates talked about abortion, birth control, and other such issues. In their actual positions on these issues, none of the candidates who ran this year (other than libertarian Gary Johnson and, in some cases, libertarian Ron Paul) differed at all. As far as I can tell, Mitt Romney has the exact same position on gay and lesbian rights, on church/state issues, on abortion, and, yes, on contraception as Rick Santorum or Newt Gingrich, or even Michele Bachmann.
What's really been at issue in the nomination contest isn't which positions that the party would take, but whether Republicans could trust Romney to support the party platform once elected president.
The entire nomination process has been about shrinking the gap between movement conservative positions and what Mitt Romney says he'll do in office. Don't believe any spin to the contrary.