WASHINGTON — Mitt Romney is grinding his way to the Republican presidential nomination not by winning hearts but by imposing his will on a party that keeps resisting him. He is assembling the peripheral elements of the GOP as his rivals divide the votes of the passionate believers. His campaign is part John McCain, part Michael Dukakis, and part Richard Nixon.
In its way, Romney’s achievement is impressive. He is neither a natural politician nor a comfortable spokesman for an increasingly ideological, evangelical, Southern and enraged political coalition. Romney is a man of flexible views from the Northeast, a Mormon who wins votes from the least religious sectors of his party, a rather satisfied man who has to announce he’s angry because he doesn’t look it.
Yet whenever it has mattered, Romney has pulled out victories. They are never won in a pretty way and require millions of dollars in advertising to discredit his opponents. They have also forced Romney to adjust or reverse many of his positions, and to go far to the right on particular issues — immigration for one — to outflank his adversaries. He needs to win now. He’ll count the costs later.