Mitt Romney needed to pass the usual tests for Republican presidential candidates in his debate Monday night with President Obama.
There was the Ford test (alternatively known as the Palin/Cain/Perry test): Would Mr. Romney say something so obviously misinformed, so manifestly silly, so revealingly ignorant as to disqualify him from serious consideration as a prospective commander-in-chief? He said nothing of the sort.
There was the Goldwater test (unfairly named, but reputations are stubborn things): Did Mr. Romney make pronouncements so belligerent as to make ordinary people fear for their children’s safety—or at least provide David Axelrod a chance to make it seem as if he did? He did not, though that won’t stop Mr. Axelrod from trying.
And there was the Bush test (not unfairly named but mistakenly understood to mean ideology when it ought to be about consistency): Would Mr. Romney find a deft way to define his foreign policy as something other than a retread of the 43rd president—but also as something defensible, distinctive, and (not least) identifiably Republican?
On this score, Mr. Romney succeeded, too, if only in a manner coyly calculated to raise the hackles of every conservative who has harbored doubts all along about the Massachusetts governor.