Norquist on the Conversions of Rudy and Mitt

Grover Norquist, the small-government advocate who helped engineer the conservative revolution in the 1990’s, has a novel take on why erstwhile liberals like Rudy Giuliani and Mitt Romney might be embraced by social conservatives.

“People are up for conversions, for changes, for growing,” he told me in an interview this week. “People love former alcoholics and drug addicts. You never have anybody on the 700 Club who always went to church and was nice. ‘Now, homosexual prostitutes who took drugs and don’t do that anymore — yeah, we like you!'”

Norquist said that Giuliani’s subtle new strategy for dealing with his past apostacies could work, but he thinks that Romney’s more overt change of heart is going to end up being the more successful one.

“The argument made out by Romney is actually the better one, as articulated on abortion,” said Norquist. “‘I used to be pro-choice and so stated it, but now I have had a change of heart and now I’m not.'”

The trick, he said, is to make it believable.

“That’s called winning when people want to be on your team. Conservative movements should be willing to accept conversions one way in one direction, one time,” said Norquist. “As long as someone has a credible explanation as to why.”

–Jason Horowitz