The website 538 did a bit on Arlen Specter in 2008, it talked about how his voting record changes based on if he was facing a primary or not. When he was a GOP senator not facing a primary from the right, he voted conservative about 60% of the time (this is what I recall of the numbers). When Pat Toomey was challenging him from the right he started voting conservative about 90% of the time, trying to outconservative the conservative. Then when he realized he wouldn’t win a GOP primary he switched parties. When he did that and Joe Sestak was challenging him from the left he was voting conservative only about 20% of the time (from what I recall, the numbers may have been a little different), trying to outliberal the liberal.
I tend to think Romney is the same type of character, he will vote based on whatever the people who can give him what he wants want him to vote. Which is politics in general, but I think Romney takes it further than most politicians as can be seen of his total changes in philosophy from MA in the 90s and early 00’s to his run in the GOP presidential primary in 2012.
So in 2012 who is going to have power over Romney? I’m not sure. He will be president, it isn’t like the tea party can or will impeach him. Once Romney no longer needs to win the votes to the conservative base (which he needs now for the primary and presidential election) will he still cater to them? I’m thinking probably not. But if he does that, does he win a second term? Can the GOP possibly primary Romney in a 2016 presidential primary? I wouldn’t put it past them, they have pushed a lot of senators out but I don’t know about a sitting president (like Reagan tried to do in 76 or Kennedy tried to do in 80). It is possible Romney knows the tea party could primary him in 2016, so he may still be in hock to them his entire presidency. If so, I predict a pretty right wing across the board presidency.
So fundamentally it comes down to ‘whose good side does Romney have to get on to get what he wants’. And I’m assuming he fundamentally wants power and prestige, which he obtains by achieving elected office.
I’m thinking, not sure though, that if elected he will throw a few conservative agendas onto the pile but by and large he will probably ignore the base. Not only that, but the base has been pretty rude to him so I don’t see Romney siding with the same people who boo’ed him at the debates or tried to pick ‘anyone’ but him as their nominee once he no longer has to.
I’m guessing he will govern (if you take away the pressure from the right) as a corporatist on domestic issues (being a corporatist has been something he seems pretty committed to, I don’t see that changing). No idea about foreign policy. I’m guessing he wouldn’t really care about social issues.
But this is assuming he has nothing to gain by catering to the tea party after 2012. if the risk of a 2016 primary is real, he will push himself so far to the right he becomes a one term president and loses the general in 2016 IMO.