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.