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Postman on Politics

Chief political reporter David Postman explores state, regional and national politics.

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February 3, 2008 6:17 PM

Romney backer calls himself a "weird conservative."

Posted by David Postman

VANCOUVER -- It’s nice to know that even after two weeks of driving around the state, people can still surprise me with their political views. Believe me, there are a whole lot more shades to Washington’s politics than the two primary colors generally used to describe us.

And the 60-year-old security guard I talked with earlier today had an interesting description of his politics. Glen Hilts was on a break from some outdoor duty and still had his wool watch cap pulled low on his head when I asked him what he was thinking of the 2008 presidential campaign.

“I’m a lifelong Republican. Or, I should say a life-long fiscal conservative who has been shafted by the Republicans like a lot of people have.”

He also said he “generally supports the war in Iraq” but says the Bush administration messed it up so bad its original mission has been lost, and it is costing far too much money.

But he’s sticking with the party. Hilts told me he supports Republican Mitt Romney, the former Massachusetts governor.

The party loyalty didn’t surprise me. But this did:

“I’m also strongly pro-choice and for gay rights.”

Those liberal social positions don’t match Romney’s platform. He felt he had a better fit with his first choice, Rudy Giuliani.

But Hilts said that budget and economic issues “are 90 percent of it” when he decides who to vote for and Romney now is the best choice.

And that calculation always leads him to vote Republican.

“I can’t ever remember supporting a Democrat, except for maybe in a local election.”

But, this could be the year. Hilts doesn’t like Sen. John McCain. He said McCain wouldn’t do enough, or do the right things, to boost the economy and get government spending under control.

So if McCain gets the GOP nomination, Hilts’ calculation gets more complicated.

McCain vs. Hillary Clinton?

“I never in my life could ever vote for Hillary. It wouldn’t matter if she were God herself.”

McCain vs. Barack Obama?

“Hmm, I don’t know. I like some of what Obama says.”

Hilts isn’t the only person who told me their first choice was a Republican but that Obama could be their backup plan. I heard that from a Huckabee supporter in Yakima and a Paul supporter in Clark County just yesterday.

Hilts won’t go the Republican caucus Saturday. He’s not enough of a party man to spend an afternoon that way. But he plans to cast a ballot for Romney in the Feb. 19th primary.

But wait, back to the socially liberal side of Hilts’ ideological portfolio. How’d that happen? At least part of it came from the years he and his wife spent as foster parents to a series of teenage girls.

“Success for us was for the girls to get a GED, get a job - even at McDonalds - and not pregnant. So am I pro-choice? I’m pro-choice.”

He’s sort of a Democrat when it comes to those foster kids. When one of the girls came back to pay a visit, she proudly showed Hilts the check for several thousand dollars she got through the IRS’s Earned Income Tax Credit. It was several times larger than she had paid in federal taxes.

“I had never heard of that before. But I said, ‘If the government is going to give away money I’m glad at least that you got some of it.’”

The story made me laugh. Hilts seemed to know what I was thinking.

“That’s a weird conservative,” he said of himself. “I couldn’t run for anything because I’d piss everyone off.”

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