Romney looks suspect to many activists on the right not because he isn’t conservative enough but because he isn’t angry enough. His real problem isn’t a question of ideology, it’s a matter of attitude. Mitt can’t keep himself from looking self-possessed and unflappable, cool and collected, reasonable and restrained. Rage isn’t part of his emotional repertoire: even when visibly frustrated by Rick Perry’s boorish disregard of all rules of debate in the Las Vegas slugfest, he came across as more pained and perplexed than infuriated.
Like most seriously successful businessmen, Mitt is a pragmatic problem solver, a sensible fixer, a technocrat. It’s easy to imagine him rolling up his carefully cuff-linked sleeves to begin a process of cooperative, institutional repair in Washington, but it’s tough to visualize the perfectly poised governor at the head of an avenging conservative army, laying waste to the opposition in a merciless effort to smash the remaining redoubts of their power.