When Mitt Romney ran for president four years ago, the biggest knock against him was that he was a flip-flopper in the John Kerry mold, someone who changes his position with the winds, or depending on which audience he is talking to.
Footage of his 1994 debate with Ted Kennedy, in which he said that “abortion should be safe and legal in this country” and of a letter he wrote to Log Cabin Republicans in which he wrote, “I am more convinced than ever before that as we seek to establish full equality for America’s gays and lesbian citizens, I will provide more effective leadership than my opponent,” surfaced.
This second time around this charge hasn’t come up as often. Partially, it’s because Mr. Romney has been out for the past four years, explaining his views and solidifying where he stands in the public’s mind. Instead, the knock against the former Massachusetts governor is simply that he is just not conservative enough.
But he really tried to put the flip-flop charge to bed last night by hanging the label around the neck of his nearest rival for the nomination, Texas Governor Rick Perry. It was almost as if in the 2008 Democratic primary, Barack Obama accused Hillary Clinton of being inexperienced and naive.
When the moderators asked Mr. Romney about Mr. Perry’s comments that Social Security should be returned to the states, Mr. Romney suggested that there was a Perry doppelganger out there someone contradicting the one standing on stage next to him.
“Well, it’s different than what the governor put in his book just, what, six months, and what you said in your interviews following the book. So I don’t know. There’s a Rick Perry out there that is saying — and almost to quote, it says that the federal government shouldn’t be in the pension business, that it’s unconstitutional it should be returned to the states. So you better find that Rick Perry and get him to stop saying that,” Mr. Romney said.
And later: “And it’s fine for to you retreat from your own words in your own book, but please don’t try and make me retreat from the words that I wrote in my book. I stand by what I wrote. I believe in what I did.”
And again: ”In that book, it says that Social Security was forced upon the American people. It says that, by any measure, Social Security is a failure. Not to 75 million people. And you also said that — that Social Security should be returned to the states.Now, those are the positions in your book. And simply, in my view, I’m stand by my positions. I’m proud of them. There are a lot of reasons not to elect me, a lot of reasons not to elect other people on this stage, but one reason to elect me is that I know what I stand for, I’ve written it down.”
The label of flip-flopper is a long way from sticking to Gov. Perry–the phrase “Rick Perry flip-flops” get about half the number of Google hits that “Mitt Romney flip-flops” do–but trying to hang it on an opponent may be enough to remove it from Mr. Romney.
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