Let me just say up front that Mitt Romney is far from my first choice among the current field. I think both Rick Perry and Jon Huntsman would be far better general election candidates and Presidents than Mitt Romney and I don't really "get" the joke the state of Iowa has clearly foisted on the entire country by essentially voting for Santorum, but macabre humor has never been my thing. However, all objective evidence seems to indicate that the GOP primary electorate does not agree with me and that Romney has the clear inside track to the nomination, with only Newt posing a serious threat to his chances. While I certainly get that Romney as a candidate has many, many flaws, I honestly do not get the gnashing of teeth I am hearing today at the prospect of a Romney nomination. In my view, if he were to win the nomination, he would be our most conservative nominee since at least 1988.
I think that some people have either lost a sense of historical perspective here or are expecting an unrealistically quick sea change if their contention is that Romney is unacceptably moderate to get their vote in a general election. Turning back the wayback machine to 1992, recall that our nominee (among other things) was most recently known for 1) raising taxes and 2) nominating a pro-choice justice to the Supreme Court. In 1996 we ran "tax collector for the welfare state" Bob Dole, whose cronies groused openly about removing the pro-life plank from the Republican party platform. In 2000, George W. Bush ran on an open platform of instituting the largest entitlement expansion in decades (Medicare Part D), amnesty for illegal aliens, and loads of other big government ideas. I mean, GWB wasn't defending having done those things in the past, he explicitly told us that if elected, he would implement them as President. To say nothing of the fact that his wife was openly pro-choice and he flirted openly with the idea of selecting Tom Ridge as VP. In 2008, we ran a guy whose entire national name ID was due to the fact that he was, without a doubt, the handiest and most available useful idiot for the media to grab when they needed a Republican to criticize the Republican party.
Now, Mitt Romney has often been criticized (fairly and completely accurately, in my opinion) as a flip-flopper. I agree that this is less than a desirable trait and if I had my druthers I would prefer someone like Rick Perry who has been more or less consistently conservative for a relatively long time (an easier feat in Texas than Massachusetts, no doubt, but that is beside the point). However, the most salient point I can divine about this criticism, given the fact that Romney's latest flops are all to the right, is that Romney is being criticized for accurately perceiving that he needs conservatives. Yes, I would agree that Romney would bear careful watching as President and constant egging on from Congress, but I would certainly prefer someone who panders to me for political reasons than someone who openly gives me the finger in order to pander to centrists and/or leftists, which is exactly what we have gotten in terms of Presidential nominees for the last 20 years.
I guess what I am saying here is that if Mitt Romney is the standard-fare establishment candidate who we would all only grudgingly settle for after all other options are exhausted, then we should recognize that we as conservatives have successfully moved the party significantly to the right over the last two decades, and it would be absolute infantile madness to disregard this fact and refuse to support Romney (if he is the nominee) in the general election against Obama because more conservative candidates were unable to convince GOP primary voters to vote for them.