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Mitt Romney is erasing his image as a flip-flopper ... but at a price
If you're wondering why the Obama campaign has focused most of its recent criticism of Mitt Romney on Romney's conservative positions instead of his track record as a flip-flopper, you need look no further than this fact: despite Mitt Romney's track record of being a flip-flopper and despite predictions from virtually everybody in politics (including his own campaign!) that he would Etch-A-Sketch his conservative primary positions away, Mitt Romney has largely stayed true to his campaign promises.

Romney has flip-flopped on flip-flopping, you might say. The most glaring exception is his reversal on student loan interest rates; there's no question he's flip-flopped there. And he's hinted at a shift on immigration policy, but aside from disputing his own statement about Arizona being a model for immigration policy, he hasn't actually changed his position.

Meanwhile, on virtually everything else, Romney hasn't budged. His economic philosophy is extraordinarily conservative, featuring a $10 trillion tax cut for the wealthy. His stump speech portrays Obama as an enemy of the American way of life and describes his campaign in apocalyptic terms, saying that America's survival is at stake in the 2012 election. That's not hyperbole (on my part). Last night, Romney said if Obamacare is allowed to stand, America's economic system will have "ceased" to exist.

Not only isn't Romney flip-flopping on any of those positions, for the most part he's not even trying to soften his rhetoric. Case in point: going on Jay Leno's show to tell sick people without insurance that they are out of luck if they want to buy coverage. He even brought up the Republican War on Birth Control during his speech to the NRA. (Talk about shooting blanks!)

It might be remarkable that Mitt Romney hasn't sought to flip-flop on those positions or soften his rhetoric, but given the fact that he's decided to stay on the right, it's not exactly hard to understand why the Obama campaign is training its fire on his conservative positions. It's true that they've shifted from attacking him as a flip-flopper to attacking his conservative views, and The New York Times and Politico have done an interesting job exploring the dynamics of that shift, but the central reason for it is that Mitt Romney—against all odds—hasn't even tried to flip-flop.

Perhaps the key question that reporters should explore is understanding why Romney hasn't yet tried to erase more of his positions. Perhaps he's waiting until voters are paying more attention, or maybe he just wants to make sure he unifies the Republican base. He might even be sensitive to the perception—fueled by the Obama campaign and his own past history—that he's particularly inclined to being a flip-flopper. And if Mitt Romney's camping out on the right simply because he doesn't want to play into the Obama campaign narrative of him as a flip-flopper, then that narrative will have proven to be one of the most effective traps in political history because Mitt Romney cannot win this election without Etch-A-Sketching his way to the middle. And if—or, more likely, when—he eventually tries, you can bet the Obama campaign will be there every step of the way, challenging his credibility. And the longer Romney waits, the more effective those challenges will be.

Originally posted to The Jed Report on Wed Apr 25, 2012 at 08:49 AM PDT.

Also republished by Daily Kos.

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Comment Preferences

  •  He has gone from being an everyday common (14+ / 0-)

    flip flopper and has started to change into a gyroscope .
    Spinning at such a rate ...

    "Drop the name-calling." Meteor Blades 2/4/11

    by indycam on Wed Apr 25, 2012 at 08:54:08 AM PDT

  •  Diaried yesterday about Romney as (18+ / 0-)

    more conservative than Dubya ... and given a simple majority in the Senate, a lot of what he wants can be passed via reconciliation.

    The GOP wins this one, appoints two or three young Alito clones to the SCOTUS, and it's game over for liberal politics for the rest of my life.

    In theory, there is no difference between theory and practice; but in practice, there always is a difference. - Yogi Berra En théorie, il n'y a aucune différence entre théorie et pratique, mais en pratique, il y a toujours une différence. - Yogi Berra

    by blue aardvark on Wed Apr 25, 2012 at 08:56:37 AM PDT

  •  how would we know if he'd budged (7+ / 0-)

    since he can't open his mouth without setting his pants on fire doing that chameleon-shuffle fast-stepping/fast-talking act that he does?

    "Show up. Pay attention. Tell the truth. And don't be attached to the results." -- Angeles Arrien

    by Sybil Liberty on Wed Apr 25, 2012 at 08:57:30 AM PDT

  •  He stepped on a poptop... (7+ / 0-)

    and blew out his flipflop.

    My apologies Jimmy...

  •  Great to see what a toxic pickle he's in! (12+ / 0-)

    Folks in the administration are doing something very, very right.

    I ♥ President Barack Obama.

    by ericlewis0 on Wed Apr 25, 2012 at 09:03:17 AM PDT

    •  Right. Romney hasn't flip-flopped, (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      StellaRay

      not even on the student loan interest rate.  If you listen closely to what he said, he approves of a "temporary" freeze on the current interest rate.  I don't know what he means by "temporary," but I would guess it wouldn't be long enough for current students to graduate.

      Obama's campaign is being smart to concentrate on how outrageously conservative Romney is.  Everyone already knows Romney's policy positions flop around like a fish in the bottom of a boat; what they may not be clear about are the ramifications of the true conservative positions, particularly the Ryan budget.  Hang that budget around Romney's neck like a piece of red meat - then call out the dogs.

      "In this world of sin and sorrow there is always something to be thankful for; as for me, I rejoice that I am not a Republican." - H. L. Mencken

      by SueDe on Wed Apr 25, 2012 at 10:25:59 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  Mitt-Motting, not Flip-Flopping. (4+ / 0-)

    And because of the Internet(s) and YouTube, the Mitt-(Mott-)-ster cannot flip back.  

    Certainly not before Tampa, and given the record and inertia, I think he's pretty much stuck.

    Consider the student loan thing to be his (meager) efforts to return to the center.  

    Happy little moron, Lucky little man.
    I wish I was a moron, MY GOD, Perhaps I am!
    —Spike Milligan

    by polecat on Wed Apr 25, 2012 at 09:15:40 AM PDT

  •  Bet that MSM will help Mitt flipflop unchallenged (6+ / 0-)

    "Rick Perry talks a lot and he's not very bright. And that's a combination I like in Republicans." --- James Carville

    by LaurenMonica on Wed Apr 25, 2012 at 09:16:01 AM PDT

    •  They need their horse race (0+ / 0-)

      As long as it helps Rmoney close the gap on Obama to where they're equal in the polls, they'll not call him out on his bullshit. Only if he starts to pull away will they start to hit him with his lies.

      My style is impetuous.
      My defense is impregnable.
      YOU'RE NOT ALEXANDER!

      by samfish on Wed Apr 25, 2012 at 10:56:55 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  Mitt....your problem, like all of our problem, is (5+ / 0-)

    the House and Senate republicans and the reign of terror they are conducting.......Ask Boehner.

  •  It's too soon (7+ / 0-)

    He can't shake the Etch-a-Sketch yet until his nomination is more solidly accepted. Give him a month or two. Meanwhile, challenging him on his hard right positions means he has to vocally stand by them for now, providing more snippets of flip when he later flops. Great lose-lose position he's in.

    from a bright young conservative: “I’m watching my first GOP debate…and WE SOUND LIKE CRAZY PEOPLE!!!!”

    by Catte Nappe on Wed Apr 25, 2012 at 09:20:00 AM PDT

  •  Well, the O campaign is forcing him (9+ / 0-)

    The Obama campaign is concentrating on his conservative past comments. So, when he flip-flops, it will be glaringly apparent.

    Cuddling other people's babies for fifty years.

    by Frank Palmer on Wed Apr 25, 2012 at 09:35:00 AM PDT

  •  I was just repelled (a bit ot, but) (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Matt Z

    by the few minutes of his speech I could stomach.

    Really I'm really just a nice guy who really really cares about people.  

    Of course, let's not mention eliminating PP that would devastaste huge numbers of women and their health care, going after HUD and throwing how many more people out on the street, let mortgages hit bottom...well I could go on.

    Not to mention what a pompous, condescending, phony he is.

    But no really, really I'm just a really nice guy who wants to rip your life apart at the seams.  Want a cookie?

  •  rock and a hard place (4+ / 0-)

    a short step away from the devil and the deep blue (formerly) sea.

    If he tries to etch a sketch his way through the flip flops, he faces the ads with two positions on every point, out of his own mouth.  If he stays hard right, war on women, all safety net programs, Medicare, and Social Security and tax cuts for himself and his friends in the ownership class,  added to his personality fault (lack thereof), his campaign is DOA with the Independents, Centrists, leans left, and actual left voters, as well as some older voters who will be scared about the government getting its hands on their Medicare.

  •  It will be gradual... (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    TomP, shoeless

    He can't flip over night.  He'll be completely flopped by September though.  He'll spend the next three months transitioning while the SuperPAC's blast away at the Obama campaign to distract them from pointing out Romney's tack to the center.  

  •  He flip-flopped his way into the nomination from (4+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    TomP, wishingwell, Matt Z, shoeless

    many of his previously held positions. If past behaviour is an indicator of future behaviour, he will flip-flop again - and again, hopefully into obscurity.

  •  Say, in that picture, Mitt seems to be (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    shoeless

    gesturing at (or perhaps worshipping) the Great Purple Owl.

    What's with that?

    Thump! Bang. Whack-boing. It's dub!

    by dadadata on Wed Apr 25, 2012 at 09:53:12 AM PDT

  •  Sounds like Romney is flip-flopping (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Johnny the Conqueroo

    about flip-flopping. It's early yet. He has plenty of time to flip-flop back to flip-flopping.

    I believe all Southern liberals come from the same starting point -- race. Once you figure out they are lying to you about race, you start to question everything.- Molly Ivins

    by shoeless on Wed Apr 25, 2012 at 09:56:02 AM PDT

  •  Maybe (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    shoeless
    Perhaps the key question that reporters should explore is understanding why Romney hasn't yet tried to erase more of his positions. Perhaps he's waiting until voters are paying more attention, or maybe he just wants to make sure he unifies the Republican base.
    He's an idiot?

    MItt's general campaign strategy is to trade in the etch-a-sketch for a magic 8 ball.

    by jackandjill on Wed Apr 25, 2012 at 09:56:26 AM PDT

  •  I think Obama campaign will be smart (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    shoeless

    The flip-flopping will accelerate.  I think there is already evidence Obama's campaign feels there is more to be gained by hammering on past radical right statements than on wildly inconsitent positions.

    If the country thinks he is a flip-flopper it may feel he isn't so dangerous.

    •  Maybe the thing to watch is who their friends are. (0+ / 0-)

      I turned 18 during Ronald Raygun's first term and I was very worried about the possibility of a mad president losing his temper and pushing the big red button. When I studied history indepth in college I thought about that again in light of Nixon's dark paranoia and also Kennedy's Cuban Missile Crisis preceded by the Bay of Pigs (and no, Dana Perino, those were not the same incident).

      So while it is still probably possible for a rogue president to blow up the world (so glad we kept Palin out) the more frequent and likely scenario is that a president will be led astray by his "friends." See Kennedy talked into Bay of Pigs by generals; Bush talked into Iraq by Cheney and the Neocons, etc.

      So which "friends" would control a hypothetical President Romney? Wall St. types? That's a natural fit. Norquist? A Neocon resurgence? Romney sucked George W. Bush's codpiece pretty hard when he ran for president in 2008. Socially conservative culture warriors (a coalition of puritanical Catholics, evangelicals, and Mormons)? The congressional conservative clan of Boehner, Cantor, Ryan and McConnell?

  •  What if his calculus is just dead wrong (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    shoeless

    And he thinks he can activate a big enough "base" in the hard line - that would be really interesting to walk it out - finally show the radical right that - no - the country does not agree with you (because he will get killed if he doesn't tack back)

    FYI - the bluedog thing is about my dog ... I'm a liberal left winger and proud of it.

    by bluedogsd on Wed Apr 25, 2012 at 10:00:36 AM PDT

    •  Could be. (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      The Nose

      We'll see soon, whether he tries to tack to the middle or uses the Rove playbook of turning out the base and forgetting about everybody else.

      Is his campaign being run by old Rove hands? That might tell us something.......

      If Obama doesn't deserve credit for getting Bin Laden because he didn't pull the trigger, Bin Laden doesn't deserve the blame for 9-11 because he didn't fly the planes.

      by Bush Bites on Wed Apr 25, 2012 at 10:19:03 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  I expect a VP pick to be coming well before Tampa (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    shoeless

    He needs someone that can say batshit crazy right wing things and attack attack attack without the words coming from his own mouth. There is no reason for him to wait to pick a VP, he has the nomination already sown up, and all he has left to do is consolidate the base. A right wing attack dog is just the trick for that, and it takes the pressure off of Romney to keep having to defend himself in his own words.

    •  I Hope He Does (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Krush

      Because it Worked Sooooo Well For John McCain.

      The Words Might Not Be His, But Romney will Still have
      to Defend whatever words are Used.

      Sure Thing.
      Secure the Base and Loose EVERYONE Else.

      On Giving Advice: Smart People Don't Need It and Stupid People Don't Listen

      by Brian76239 on Wed Apr 25, 2012 at 10:19:25 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  McCain picked her just a couple weeks before. (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        MRobDC

        And that was mainly to stomp on Obama's convention momentum.

        If Obama doesn't deserve credit for getting Bin Laden because he didn't pull the trigger, Bin Laden doesn't deserve the blame for 9-11 because he didn't fly the planes.

        by Bush Bites on Wed Apr 25, 2012 at 10:36:41 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

    •  I think it will be later. (0+ / 0-)

      He doesn't need to rev up the troops this early and, besides, the later he announces the veep the less chance the press has on finding dirty laundry.

      Anyway, he'll want an exciting election and the only thing that will deliver that is a great veep pick that unifies the party.

      If Obama doesn't deserve credit for getting Bin Laden because he didn't pull the trigger, Bin Laden doesn't deserve the blame for 9-11 because he didn't fly the planes.

      by Bush Bites on Wed Apr 25, 2012 at 10:34:04 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  He definitely needs to rev up the troops (0+ / 0-)

        Last night he failed to clear 60% of the vote with no opposition. This is not a candidate that can waltz into Tampa and expect a campaign at his feet. They can only find som any people to hire as paid campaign workers. With no volunteers, you have no campaign. And right now, he doesnt have it.

  •  I don't know. (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Gooserock

    I get it, but I'm not sold. Basically the Obama Campaign is betting the media to cover Romney on the substance of his stance on the issues. HA! Seems like the Obama Campaign hasn't observed anything this political season. Romney deliberately doesn't run on issues because he isn't an issues guy. He's running based on who he is: I'm a business guy. Seems to me we'd be attacking him rather than his hard to target positions.

    "This is pin the tail on the donkey," as one Obama Campaign operative put it. Seems to me he didnt understand that in that game the person holding the tail has a blindfold on.

    Meh. Not sold on this at all.

    •  Because He Won't Have His Stances Delivered to Him (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      brooklynbadboy

      till after inauguration, same as the Republican governors in 2010. They all run on and against identity, they've been doing that since Carter, and since more recently because they aren't in possession of their own agenda till the private legislation industry delivers it.

      We are called to speak for the weak, for the voiceless, for victims of our nation and for those it calls enemy.... --ML King "Beyond Vietnam"

      by Gooserock on Wed Apr 25, 2012 at 10:23:35 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  As Lawrence O'Donnell said about Willard (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Bush Bites, shoeless

    as to changing his positions again-to paraphrase: "He won't do it because he'll need each and every one of those teaparty wackjobs to vote for him to have any chance at all to beat Obama."

    I love the smell of republican desperation in the morning. It smells like, victory.

    I ask him if he was warm enough? "Warm," he growled, "I haven't been warm since Bastogne."

    by Unrepentant Liberal on Wed Apr 25, 2012 at 10:16:07 AM PDT

  •  Worked out well, actually. (0+ / 0-)

    They got him so paranoid about flip-flopping again -- and got the entire Repub side watching for it -- that he's now trapped in amber as a conservative fossil.

    I like.

    If Obama doesn't deserve credit for getting Bin Laden because he didn't pull the trigger, Bin Laden doesn't deserve the blame for 9-11 because he didn't fly the planes.

    by Bush Bites on Wed Apr 25, 2012 at 10:16:32 AM PDT

  •  I like... (0+ / 0-)

    How that mirrored background evokes some sort of unintended H.R. Giger type image....

    "If this Studebaker had anymore Atomic Space-Age Style, you'd have to be an astronaut with a geiger counter!"

    by Stude Dude on Wed Apr 25, 2012 at 10:20:20 AM PDT

  •  I'd Prefer Obama to Be Attacking His Conservatism (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Liberal Capitalist

    because that's how he'll govern even if he does flip-flop rhetorically.

    We are called to speak for the weak, for the voiceless, for victims of our nation and for those it calls enemy.... --ML King "Beyond Vietnam"

    by Gooserock on Wed Apr 25, 2012 at 10:20:43 AM PDT

  •  There seems to be a bear on a throne (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Krush

    moderating the debate between the two Romneys in that picture.  I'm pretty sure that's significant.

    Halitosigone® can lead to rare, but serious, side effects such as spontaneous combustion and moderate to severe pit stains.

    by bherner on Wed Apr 25, 2012 at 10:21:03 AM PDT

  •  I found the doomsday ct (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    The Nose

    parts of his speech:

    Government is at the center of his vision. It dispenses the benefits, borrows what it cannot take, and consumes a greater and greater share of the economy. With Obamacare fully installed, government will come to control half the economy, and we will have effectively ceased to be a free enterprise society.

    This President is putting us on a path where our lives will be ruled by bureaucrats and boards, commissions and czars.  He’s asking us to accept that Washington knows best – and can provide all.

    We are already ruled by bureaucrats and boards, commissions and czars. But they start on Wall Street not in Washington.

    I wish Romney would talk about his Mormon underwear or something. His moderate tone might suck in low info voters. He is a hard right (his policies are!), but his tone is moderate. He is not screeching about the President being a foreigner or a socialist. Saying Latino's should self deport is pretty radical though.

  •  I don't get the OCB on flipflopping (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Bush Bites

    Why the obsession with flipflopping? Because it is perceived that the GOP was so successful with it against Kerry?

    That wasn't Kerry's problem. Like Romney, Kerry was simply enormously *un*likable, and took positions and did things that were convenient to his political ambitions.

    Sound familiar?

    What separates us, divides us, and diminishes the human spirit.

    by equern on Wed Apr 25, 2012 at 10:21:36 AM PDT

    •  He also had a VP who couldn't carry his own state. (0+ / 0-)

      Dumb pick.

      If Obama doesn't deserve credit for getting Bin Laden because he didn't pull the trigger, Bin Laden doesn't deserve the blame for 9-11 because he didn't fly the planes.

      by Bush Bites on Wed Apr 25, 2012 at 10:26:23 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  he really had a chance to beat Obama (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    The Nose

    if he'd just gone with the moderate stance from the beginning.

    He might have had a harder time winning the nomination, but at the end of the day, there were no other credible options.

    Now, he's painted himself into such a corner...not that I'm upset about that!

  •  He will have flip flopped on most things by June (0+ / 0-)

    Its still only April. He needs to to make the Repiglican base stop hating him. A few months of hardcore conservativism before the general population really starts paying attention is what he needs now.

    I mean, his campaign has literally SAID they were going to flip fl- oh, sorry, "pivot" for the general election. They've given us no reason to think otherwise.

    My style is impetuous.
    My defense is impregnable.
    YOU'RE NOT ALEXANDER!

    by samfish on Wed Apr 25, 2012 at 10:54:08 AM PDT

  •  Not a flip-flop, it's a crock. (0+ / 0-)

    "I am talking a crock of shit", Socrates 429 BC

    If the shoe fits. . .

    . . . from Julie, Julia. "Oh, well. Boo-hoo. Now what?"

    by 88kathy on Wed Apr 25, 2012 at 11:14:29 AM PDT

  •  Romney is not a conservative. (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    The Nose

    He's a plutocrat, there's a difference.

  •  Here's an important part of this: By painting (0+ / 0-)

    Willard as an ultra right wing nutjob, when he DOES pivot on policy, AND HE WILL, it will be so much easier to portray him as just saying that to try to win votes.

    Plus, it would ingrain the flip flopper meme in the public.

    This is a win win strategy.

    "Nothing in all the world is more dangerous than sincere ignorance and conscientious stupidity." --M. L. King "You can't fix stupid" --Ron White -6.00, -5.18

    by zenbassoon on Wed Apr 25, 2012 at 11:46:08 AM PDT

  •  He CAN'T go to the middle (0+ / 0-)

    Even putting aside Fehrnstorm's "Etch-A-Sketch" comments, the pureblood conservatives have just been waiting for Romney to go moderate, at which time they will go completely Norman Bates on his ass.

    Message to Dems: We HAVE to start showing up for Midterms.

    by Jank2112 on Wed Apr 25, 2012 at 12:41:08 PM PDT

  •  Mr. 1%, a unprincipled extremist. Not mutually ex (0+ / 0-)

    clive, extremist and flip-flopper.  After all, the problem with  f-f'g, Thug stupidity and spin aside, is not that you might change postions.  Only idiots never do that, especially when the facts warant.  

    Rather, it is how much, how long and is there anything you wouldn't say just to seek votes?  That's having no principles.

    And that's Rmoney.

    Well, except for always being for the rich over everyone and everything else, of course.  I guess that's a principle.  Seems to be his only one.

  •  This is perfect for Obama (0+ / 0-)

    Mitt will try to avoid these right wing views but the Obama campaign should saddle them with every crazy right wing idea that is being floated, whether it is his or not.  Get him to start denying the extra crazy stuff, and he will have to explain his ordinary vanilla crazy stuff.  

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