I've always thought of the AP's Ron Fournier as a smart but pretty even-tempered and conventional political reporter. But he really, really seems to hate Mitt Romney. Check out his column (which made it to my email inbox via the McCain campaign) on the Michigan primary results:

WASHINGTON - Mitt Romney's victory in Michigan was a defeat for authenticity in politics.

The former Massachusetts governor pandered to voters, distorted his opponents' record and continued to show why he's the most malleable — and least credible — major presidential candidate.

And it worked.

The man who spoke hard truths to Michigan lost. Of all the reasons John McCain deserved a better result Tuesday night, his gamble on the economy stands out. The Arizona senator had the temerity to tell voters that a candidate who says traditional auto manufacturing jobs "are coming back is either naive or is not talking straight with the people of Michigan and America."

Instead of pandering, McCain said political leaders must "embrace green technologies," adding: "That's the future. That's what we want."

Romney jumped all over McCain, playing to the fears of voters in a state with the nation's highest unemployment rate. "I've heard people say that the auto jobs are gone and they're never coming back," Romney told his audiences. "Well, baloney, I'm going to fight for every single good job."


[H]e told voters what he thought they wanted to hear.

"I'm not open to a bailout, but I am open to a workout," Romney said of the auto industry, even as he vowed to spend $20 billion over five years for research on energy, fuels, automotive technology and material sciences. How many Michigan voters mistook that that for a multibillion-dollar bailout pledge?

Romney also said he wanted to modify a recently passed measure calling for U.S. vehicle fleets to average 35 miles per gallon by 2020. Well, baloney. Less than three years ago, Romney seemed to champion higher automobile standards. "Almost everything in America has gotten more efficient in the last decade, except the fuel economy of the vehicles we drive," he said in September 2005.

As is often the case with Romney, he has changed his tone, if not his mind.

This is a man who campaigned for governor of Democratic stronghold Massachusetts as a supporter of abortion rights, gay rights and gun control — only to switch sides on those and other issues in time for the GOP presidential race. The first thing he did as a presidential contender in January was sign the same no-tax pledge an aide dismissed as "government by gimmickry" during the 2002 campaign.

He was a political independent who voted for Democrat Paul Tsongas in the 1992 Massachusetts presidential primary; now he is a Reagan conservative. He was for embryonic stem cell research; now he favors restrictions on it.

Romney definitely did pander on economic issues in Michigan. But economic issues, given Romney's business background, are his strongsuit. In other words, his pandering, in this instance, seemed more believable. But it'll be interesting to see if Romney is so hobbled by his earlier pandering and flip-flopping on social issues that people don't buy his new focus on the economy--an area where he should have an advantage. Fournier certainly doesn't.

Update: Reader K.B. writes in:

Fournier is an exemplar of the McCain media man-crush that values the "reasonable center" of American politics above all else. But more to the point, he was a founder of the now defunct web site Hot Soup along with McCain adviser Mark McKinnon. During its brief time in existence Fournier and McKinnon made the rounds of all the establishment shows such as Russert et al to pitch their new web site as a kind of anti-Kos, where centrists could hang out and chat. You have to imagine that Fournier's take on Romney is somewhat colored by his friendship and work with McKinnon.

--Jason Zengerle