Greetings from the friendly skies. I’m somewhere between San Francisco and Phoenix, or is it Atlanta and DC? Either way I’m enjoying the fascinating company of the president of the National Association of Dance Masters – zzzzzzz – an organization dating back to – wait for it – 1884! – and dedicated to certifying dance instructors. Madam President is en route to a conference in – snap out of it, Jason – Ocean City, MD. A car of some type, I think, will pick her up and drive her to her hotel. She hopes. Will the water be cold? Will the boardwalk be open? … Zzzzzz … zzzzzzzzzzzz … Dozed off there for a moment. Allow me to squigee drool from my laptop.

I apologize for being mostly AWOL the last few days and not taking time to weigh in on Super Tuesday. (I’m sure thousands of you have been waiting breathlessly at your computers, refreshing dozens of times per hour for my latest screed. Right RedStateEddio? Toby? Troy? Whodat?)

I doubt there’s much I can say about Tuesday that hasn’t been said by others and probably draped with much more eloquence. McCain went for a knockout and missed, but he won the biggies and no doubt sat back like Dr. Burns tapping his fingers and watching his boy-toy Huckabee siphon votes from Romney.

One of the few rules since PD’s founding is that contributors wouldn’t cheerlead for a specific candidate. Taking shots at one side or another, and many of those shots being cheap in nature, is encouraged. But we’ve asked our lefties, righties and Switzerlands not to simply back a single candidate. For the most part we’ve stayed true to that, writing generally about what we’ve liked and disliked about the candidates without too obviously showing our hand.

It comes as no surprise to anyone that I’m a conservative. I shed that hat when appearing on radio and TV, usually billed as a “commentator”, “analyst”, “pundit”, or “doofus”. And in our Power Rankings I’ve been an equally opportunity offender. But make no mistake, I am a proud conservative.

So where am I now that we have a nominee?

Confession time: Early in this race I had feelings for Huckabee and I praised him often in the media. But the more I got to know him, the more we drifted apart. And when it became clear he only had eyes for McCain, I gave up. He so irritates me now I wouldn’t vote for him if he were the nominee. I’ll spare you the details, but I believe he’s been the least genuine, most dishonest candidate in this race.

Rudy? No thanks. He never interested me and I predicted his slide many times. I never imagined it would be so dramatic, but it was definitely something to watch. The greatest meltdown from frontrunner to loser that I’ve ever seen. And I know a little something about being a loser.

Then there was Fred. I liked the Fredster. I never thought he was as conservative as advertised, but it was hard not to get swept into the mania. But as predicted here — and certainly on other sites — it was never going to happen. He waited too long and entered with the greatest thud since “After MASH”. A source close to Fred and Jeri tells me this was never his idea, Jeri wanted to be First Lady and led the campaign to talk him into the race. And for all the flack McCain has taken for looking like an old broken piece of wet chalk, Fred looked older. I won’t be the first to make the Weekend at Bernie’s comparison, but I’ll make it anyway. His staff propped him up, they moved him through the paces, and no one believed he wanted to be president. Game over.

As for the rest of my potential love interests, Hunter is fabulous and might have made a great president, but he simply didn’t have enough support and I never believed–not for a second–he could win a single state. Tancredo is a one-issue guy, and a good one at that, but never viable beyond his home district. Brownback was pleasant enough. Oh, and entirely unelectable. Gilmore was… Crud, I forget who Gilmore was, but I think he ran for a while. Tommy Thompson was so unforgettable that if he hijacked the plane I’m on and demanded it land in Cuba, no one would have a clue who he was.

Approximately 5% of you thought I’d forget Ron Paul. I actually like Dr. No, and with a few exceptions I believe he lines up pretty well with my personal ideology. But there hasn’t been such a well-funded and horrible campaigner since Harvey Weinstein tried to buy an Oscar for “Finding Neverland”. Paul has served a valuable purpose in this campaign and I hope he fights on. A decade from now he could very well be credited with spawning a return to fiscal responsibility and limited government. He’s no doubt opened some eyes, just not enough of them.

McRino? Where do we start? A few days after the president signed McCain-Feingold, I sat in a meeting with a group of influential conservatives including several of the president’s senior staffers from the West Wing. I raised my hand during the Q&A and asked why the president was signing a bill he believed to be unconstitutional, a bill he said he believed would ultimately be overturned by the Supreme Court. Everyone in the room but the White House reps applauded the question. The answer was a hodgepodge of forgettable spin.

There were reasons not to like McCain long before his assault on political speech, but this sealed the deal for me and many conservatives who found it incomprehensible McCain would spit on the constitution by limiting the very speech the founders sought to protect. And don’t buy this dump-truck-full-of-dung argument that there’s too much money in politics and that groups shouldn’t have so much influence. Yes, they should, darn it. It’s called free speech. If I want to get my neighbors together and run ads against a candidate less than 30 days before an election, bystinkinggolly I should have that right. Americans died for that right. (For the record, much of McCain-Feingold has been slapped down by the court. What remains is said to have made things even worse.)

And don’t get me started on immigration, global warming, energy policy or his habit of using liberal lingo. Note to McCain: Want conservatives to stop calling you a liberal? Then quit using phrases like “managing for profit” and “patriotism over profits”. Profits are a good thing, Senator. This country is the leader of the free world because of profits. And take a look at that cute, wealthy second wife of yours, her family has done pretty well with some evil “profits”, hasn’t she? That phraseology is right out of the Obama/Clinton/Edward playbook.

Where does this leave me? Pining for Romney. He impressed me when we met last fall and the more I watched him on the trail the more faith I had in him as a person and in his campaign to persevere and win converts. Sure, he lost the two early states he’d targeted, but he was winning enough to push on. Conservatives were becoming ever more vocal in their opposition to the McCain inevitability. Rush, Coulter, Beck, Dobson, Cochran, Lazlo.

The closer McCain came to that magic label, “presumptive nominee”, the more conservatives were crying, “Whoa Nellie, we didn’t expect this resurgence and frankly we ain’t sure we like it. We can do better.”

Yes, we could have.

So I was taxiing down the runway in Phoenix when I first heard the news Romney was quitting. I’ll admit it didn’t take long for the first of the three stages of political grief to kick in.

1. Disbelief. This can’t be happening. He’s got delegates, he’s got resources, he’s got a growing chorus of people pledging to sit on their hands in November if McCain leads the ticket. It’s too early too quit. This isn’t his persoanlity. This must be a mistake, my friend has it wrong, rumors are often false, that’s why there called rumors. It’s a misunderstanding. He wouldn’t quit like this. Unicorns are real.

2. Anger. I navigated my way to my hotel, flipped on the television, and every network but MTV was carrying the news. He’d called it quits at CPAC. I called my wife, emailed a few friends, I began drafting a post called “Mitt Romney’s Legacy: Quitter.” I emailed a friend at the campaign warning him I was going to “shred” Romney in a post later that day. I didn’t say them out loud, but my mind conjured up words normally reserved for Vice President Cheney on the floor of the US Senate. I kept repeating over and over: Romney could have fought this, he should have fought this, and I want back the personalized copy of The Wednesday Letters I gave him in Reno.

3. Coping. I woke up this morning, read the paper, watched his speech online, read several emails from friends and associates praising Romney for doing the right thing for the party. I smiled and shook my head. Dopes, I thought. And the anger slowly subsided when I reminded myself it wasn’t my money, my family, my health, my pride on the line. I guess it’s time to cope with reality.

Only Romney really knows why he quit, but I’m confident it had nothing to do with what’s best for the party. He said in his speech that if it were about him, he’d continue. But it’s not about me, he said, it’s about the best thing for the party and added something strange and awkward about not surrendering to terror.

Here’s my problem. If Senator John McCain was wrong for the party and the country yesterday, he still is today. If Romney was a better conservative, a stronger standard bearer for the party yesterday, he still is today. What changed overnight that suddenly you can support a competitor with whom you have significant fundamental disagreements on the most important issues of the day?

If you line up Hillary, Obama and McCain on the classic left-to-right political spectrum, McCain is closer to them than the base of his own party. And it is the base of a party that has the right to choose the nominee. (For the love of Twinkees and Ho-hos, don’t get me started on open versus closed primaries. Why democrats allow republicans to vote in democratic primaries and vice-a-verse is a mystery to me. You want to pick a political party’s nominee? Join a party.)

Was it an uphill climb for Romney? Of course. The math was stacked against him and Huckabee was obviously content to cruise along and deny Romney the nomination. In fact the unelectable Huckabee bears much of the responsibility for our RINO nominee, and if enough conservatives stay home in November to ensure an Obama/Clinton victory, Huck should consider moving. To France.

I always tell my kids that when you’re right, you’re Wright. You don’t quit playing your sister at tennis on the Wii just because she’s up 2 sets to 0. You don’t stop running when your racing the neighbor kid just because he’s 90% closer to the finish line. And you don’t throw a tantrum and quit playing your dad at the special “80’s Edition” of Trivial Pursuit just because he’s grinding you into mush.

When you’re right, you’re right. When you’re the best man for the job, so much so that you dedicated years of your life and spent both millions of dollars and countless goodwill of thousands of volunteers, you don’t quit and give in to someone you do not believe to be an acceptable choice for the party you love.

I’ll say it again. If McCain wasn’t acceptable to Mitt Romney on the morning of Super Tuesday, what changed to make him Mitt’s man-of-choice on Thursday?

When you’re right, you’re right.

Some of you will mock me for being naive. Go ahead, take your shots. Tell me how we have to be willing to “unite” in order to keep Hillary or Obama from the White House. Tell me how politics is about compromise and Mitt should be applauded for sacrificing his personal ambition for the good of the party.

Bull.

This is all about Mitt. This is all about 2012 or 2016. If he were doing something “for the good of the party” he would have fought on to the convention and taken a stand as the true conservative he claimed to be. And don’t tell me how the democrats would have relished our infighting. They’ve got plenty of their own to worry about, probably all the way to their own convention.

Turns out Mitt Romney is less of a conservative than he is a typical politician.

And he’s a quitter.

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