Ezra Klein writes that there’s little in his campaign proposals to suggest that Jon Huntsman was more moderate than Mitt Romney. Meanwhile, Peter Wallsten and Karen Tumulty write “Conservative activists scrambling for a strategy to block Romney” as the GOP base finds itself in the peculiar position of, for the second cycle in a row, watching an outlier moderate prevail against divided opposition. That said, we should be clear that one of the main reasons Romney is in a commanding position is that his conservative critics have had difficulty identifying any concrete ways in which a non-Romney in the White House would lead to more conservative outcomes than a Romney administration.
The basic fact about a Romney administration is that it would be a Republican administration. The staff would be Republican Party loyalists and activists. The high-level jobs will overwhelmingly go to people with experience in the George W. Bush administration or to people who’ve worked on Capitol Hill in Republican Party circles. The judges nominated will be formally and informally vetted by the conservative legal community. The Civil Rights Division of the Department of Justice will seek to focus on instances of discrimination against white Christians. The Romney administration will be friendly to the interests of the fossil fuel industry, will seek to reduce taxes on the wealthy, and will seek to reduce transfers to the poor. Exactly what happens with regard to most of these things will come down to congress. Newt Gingrich has proposed a much steeper tax cut than Romney, but President Gingrich and President Romney alike will end up signing into law the tax cut that Susan Collins and Olympia Snowe want to vote for, just as George W Bush did. Dozens of totally unforseen issues will arise in the 2013-2016 period and the precise identity of the person in the White House will matter in unpredictable ways to determining how those situations resolve themselves. But in terms of “the big issues” the real question you have to ask is whether or not there’s any meaningful disagreement inside the party on the direction of policy and you can see from watching the 111th and 112th Congresses in action that Republicans are all basically rowing in the same direction on taxes, spending, and environmental & labor regulation.