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If elected, which Mitt Romney will govern?

October 23, 2012 - Mike Maneval
In the three presidential debates this month the performance of the Republican nominee, former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, has been, in one word, slippery.

In the opening debate, the man who told Iowa the night before the 2012 Republican caucuses that President Barack Obama was poisoning the spirit of America, pledged to reach across Washington's aisles for bipartisan solutions. Standard Republican rhetoric on the burdens of regulatory oversight, overheated for months, cooled down for one night in Denver to include nuance about the necessity of regulatory authority. After months of claiming the Obama administration is weak, ineffectual, and, in one Romney campaign adviser's insinuations, insufficiently American on foreign policy, Romney spent much of Monday's debate in Boca Raton agreeing with Obama on substantive matters. Joan Walsh, in a tough Tuesday column headlined at "the man without a soul," asked the question point-blank: "Why aren't more people horrified by Romney's capacity to disavow virtually everything he's said on foreign policy?"

Walsh, as outnumbered as she may feel, hardly is alone in her assessment of Romney's sudden shifts. Political pundit Glenn Beck took to Twitter during the debate to tweet the message, "I am glad to know that mitt agrees with Obama so much. No, really. Why vote?" But neither, nor anyone else, ought to be terribly surprised. One of Romney's own advisers implied this sort of disingenuous opportunism was coming as the Republican primary was winding down, invoking the etch-a-sketch toy. And that brief glimpse of candor from a campaign staffer itself hardly was needed, because Romney is the candidate whose views on gun control, environmental protections, gay rights, and abortion conveniently have changed to mirror whichever electorate decides his fate, whether it is the November electorate of Massachusetts or the spring electorate of the Republican presidential nominating process.

Walsh shared her concerns moderate voters may presume the more moderate Romney of the debates will govern if elected at the same time conservative voters presume the self-described "severely conservative" Romney of the primaries will govern if elected. "The fact is," Walsh succinctly says, "we don't know which Mitt Romney would take the oath of office, and that alone should consign him to an ugly defeat in two weeks."


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