[In a town hall meeting] the former Massachusetts governor stuck to the position he has held for many years — that he believes the world is getting warmer and that humans are contributing to that pattern.
Romney’s answer to the question about climate change last Friday during his first town hall meeting since announcing his second presidential campaign allowed him to demonstrate what he hopes voters will see as a new and improved candidate — an authentic leader with core convictions. . . .
So far, Romney’s reviews from the right are not positive. His views about climate change in particular put him at odds with many in his party’s base.
“Bye-bye, nomination,” Rush Limbaugh said Tuesday on his radio talk show after playing a clip of Romney’s climate remark. “Another one down. We’re in the midst here of discovering that this is all a hoax. The last year has established that the whole premise of man-made global warming is a hoax, and we still have presidential candidates that want to buy into it.”
There are two issues here. First, do his views translate into any policy position at odds with the base? And second, will this be a disqualifier? The second is easier, so I’ll start there. If it is a disqualifier, then at least two other former governors (Tim Pawlenty and Jon Huntsman) are going to have similar problems. Pawlenty described his previous global warming position as a “clunker”; Huntsman will have a harder time explaining a regulatory cap-and-trade regime he implemented in Utah. In short, in isolation it is not a disqualifier but the ferocious reaction from movement conservatives underlines the problem for Romney: He is viscerally out of kilter with many in the base.
But on the policy itself, the Romney team has a good argument that whatever his views, his policies don’t deviate from standard conservative positions. According to those advising him, he follows a “no regrets” policy, meaning that he would pursue policies that would curb global warming so long as they also reduce dependence on foreign oil. He remains opposed to cap-and-trade policies. His book “No Apology” is replete with statements decrying efforts to limit taxes on and development of domestic energy. His criticism of cap-and-trade sounds much like the standard-fare conservative position on this issue. (“Cap-and-trade would rocket energy prices by an indeterminable amount.”)
Romney has also been careful to emphasize, unlike the global warming true-believers, that there are many issues still to be studied, including how much of global warming is caused by man and how much by naturally occurring factors. It is theoretically possible (although he’s not yet taken a position) that he would, unlike the Obama administration, agree to global warming inquiries that don’t assume the conclusion (i.e. human causes are principally responsible for global warming).
In sum, this does not seem, for those not already bothered by RomneyCare, a insurmountable problem for him. It does, however, show how difficult it is for a pro-business, former governor of a blue state to get in touch with the zeitgeist of the conservative movement today. And for those already not disposed to support him, this will be one more bit of evidence for those wary of a candidate who seems too “establishment” and not conservative enough.