National Review has formally endorsed Mitt Romney in the Republican race for the 2008 nomination:
Like any Republican, he would have an uphill climb next fall. But he would be able to offer a persuasive outsider’s critique of Washington. His conservative accomplishments as governor showed that he can work with, and resist, a Democratic legislature. He knows that not every feature of the health-care plan he enacted in Massachusetts should be replicated nationally, but he can also speak with more authority than any of the other Republican candidates about this pressing issue. He would also have credibility on the economy, given his success as a businessman and a manager of the Olympics.
Romney has some impressive achievements under his belt, but the big question is even if he’s the most reliably conservative candidate (which is debatable), can he actually win in the general election? The essential problem that Mitt Romney has is that he’s too packaged to really connect with the electorate. The victories he’s had have come from spending a lot of money to get his message out, but the rise of Mike Huckabee proves that he hasn’t done nearly a good enough job of closing the deal with Republicans no less the American electorate.
National Review‘s endorsement is a big win for Romney at a time he urgently needs one. However, if he doesn’t beat Huckabee in Iowa and loses New Hampshire, he’s out of the race. He hasn’t built the nationwide campaign and instead has pursued then then-wise strategy of building momentum from the early contests. If that strategy fails, it’s going to be increasingly hard to find a Plan B.
All in all, the GOP could do much worse than Romney, but he needs to show he can connect and he needs to demonstrate a sincere commitment to conservative principles, both on economic and social issues. His heart is in the right place—at least for now—but it remains to be seen whether he’ll stick to his principles should he be elected.