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Beware Candidates Trying To Purchase a Conservative Label

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The following piece is part of an ongoing series of OffTheBus reports by citizen policy experts critiquing different aspects of Campaign 08.

John McCain and Rudy Giuliani have now both taken off the gloves on Mitt Romney, challenging his claims to conservatism.

New Hampshire Republicans ought to heed these attacks by remembering the last time a wealthy businessman spent millions of his own money in a campaign to re-define himself as a conservative. In 2002, Craig Benson, wealthy businessman and instigator of what is now the state's third largest tax (the business enterprise tax), opened his own wallet and tricked GOP primary voters into believing that he was the true conservative. Once elected, Benson could not use TV ads to govern and his failed performance contributed in no small measure to our state turning blue in 2006.

Maybe unrequited GOP yearning for the "true conservative" can no longer survive the Internet. Now that it is so easy to find and post information about candidate's pasts, we see that there are no true conservatives.

* Mitt Romney has contributed to the campaign of liberal Democrat Dick Swett.
* John McCain pushed through his despised campaign finance reform law (McCain's heart's in the right place; full public funding of elections would actually do the job of reducing the special interest hammerlock on federal politics).
* Fred Thompson was once pro-choice on abortion.
* Rudy Giuliani supports Vermont-style civil unions for gays and legal abortions - with parental notification for minor abortions (with judicial bypass) and a ban on partial-birth abortion (except to protect the life of the mother).

Maybe it's time for a new litmus test that does not require candidates to evolve for each new election. How about consistency over time? I would rather know that a candidate's values are firm and stable than that he can spend $50 million (what Mitt Romney will likely spend to self-fund before he drops out) to redefine himself.