David Frum, on how Romney won Michigan:
As has been pointed out often today, Michigan faces some of the worst economic troubles in the nation. Romney addressed those problems in a more sustained and detailed way than his main Republican challengers in the state (Huckabee, McCain).
He's absolutely right. But note that in the context of the Michigan primary, the weakness of the Huckabee/McCain economic message seems to have been that it wasn't, well, liberal enough. David Brooks quotes the Mitt Romney line that may have put him over the top in Michigan:
"If I’m president of this country, I will roll up my sleeves in the first 100 days I’m in office, and I will personally bring together industry, labor, Congressional and state leaders and together we will develop a plan to rebuild America’s automotive leadership.”
This is what people like to call "industrial policy," and what Jonah Goldberg likes to call liberal fascism - big business and big government working hand-in-glove for the purposes of economic nationalism. It's "sustained and detailed," all right, just as Frum says - a sustained and detailed infringement on free-market principle, and one that appeals to voters in places like Michigan precisely because it goes much further to the left than Mike Huckabee's substance-free talk about how the current period of economic growth isn't doing all that well by the working class, or John McCain's straight talk about how Michiganders can't expect the federal government to bring back the glory days of Chrysler and GM. But because conservatives spend way, way more time worrying about the spectre of "class warfare" than they do about than the nexus between big business and the Republican Party, Romney gets off with a mild slap on the wrist, while McCain and Huckabee get tarred as liberals.
I'm overstating the case a bit, obviously; there a variety of good reasons, besides their response to Michigan's economic pain, why McCain and Huckabee have come by their crypto-liberal reputations. But the extent to which Romney is getting a free pass for his back-to-the-'70s, "D.C. will save the auto industry" promises , while conservatives are still obsessing over how John McCain's 2000-2001 preference for a more progressive tax code makes him a "class warrior," seems more than a little ridiculous.