Mitt Romney’s victory in Michigan is a testament to his remarkable elasticity. Having spent two years running as a social conservative, which he is not, he decided a week ago to run as a businessman reformer. It didn’t carry him over the threshold there, but it evidently has in Michigan — where, among other things, the Republican candidate seems to have made wildly un-Republican promises to use the powers of the federal government to restore, through some mystical spell, automotive-industry jobs to the suffering state.
Romney may not have won in Michigan so much as McCain lost it. And he lost it because of a characteristic tendency that makes him Romney’s opposite — political rigidity based on a sense of his own personal rectitude. Having said jobs in Michigan were not coming back, he went to Michigan and praised efforts to mandate an increase in fuel-mileage standards, which auto executives claim will raise the price of a car fully $6,000 — a job killer, in other words. And he spoke against drilling in the Alaska National Wildlife Refuge, which is the only realistic way for the United States to increase its own domestic oil supply.
McCain’s line is that he is a straight talker. But there are moments he seems to make a fetish of his own honesty, and asks others to support him solely because of it.