Consider this interesting hypothesis in The American Thinker by Jack Cashill:
Romney is no RINO -- Republican In Name Only. He was not one even in his wobbly Massachusetts days. Sitting as I do on the border between Missouri and Kansas, I have become a skilled RINO-hunter. Here is the first rule of RINO-watching: they flourish only in Republican-dominated jurisdictions.
In Jackson County, Missouri, where I live, there are no RINOs. Here, as in Massachusetts, there is no reason to declare yourself a Republican unless you actually are one. Were I to run for office, I would have to run statewide to have any chance of winning anything. Democrats have all the local power.
Leaving Mr. Romney aside for the moment, what do you think? Can there be such a thing as a RINO within the city limits of Minneapolis or St. Paul? Both Mayors and all 20 Council Members save one are Democrats, the exception belonging to the Green Party. If and when a Republican somehow wins one of these elections, there will be no talk of RINO's. Nobody called Norm Coleman a RINO when he was Mayor of St. Paul. Instead, DFL mayor Randy Kelly was in effect labeled a DINO and turned out for endorsing George W. Bush over John Kerry in 2004.
If writer Cashill is right, and the elections of 2010 notwithstanding, much of Minnesota is still solidly blue, we shouldn't really have much of a RINO problem. You have to take what the defense gives you. Strong conservative areas like CD6 are rare. It's an artful balancing act to succeed as a Republican otherwise. Eric Paulsen seems to have mastered it in CD3. Gil Gutkneckt went too squishy in CD1 and lost. It's annoying how Tim Walz can now fake moderation with his hard Left voting record, but that's the reality. Michele Bachmann can run away with CD6, be competitive in CD2, but would likely get run out of the other six.
Still, we seem to think at times that we are beset with RINO's, particularly in the Legislature prior to the 2010 elections. And we did indeed have some, like the Override Six that broke ranks to raise taxes. How do we know they were RINO's? Because here in high tax Minnesota there is no reason to go out of your way to raise taxes still higher. It was an unforced error, like the many of RINO Tim Pawlenty.
That I think is the key, the unforced error concept. Governor Romey's options were few in Massachusetts. If the Democrats were going to make health care even worse without him, was he wrong to steer it towards somewhat more market friendly shores via the personal mandate as Ann Coulter suggests? Further, as Coulter notes, he had some Conservative minds with him at the time, like The Heritage Foundation. So we really can't blame him for taking a course of action that would have been neither necessary nor prudent in, say, Texas. Or so the theory goes.
But I can't let Mitt Romney off the RINO hook just yet. Or Newt Gingrich. Or even Rick Santorum. I'll sort them and Ron Paul out as I see it going into our Tuesday caucus tomorrow.