October 18, 2007

THE FATAL ABSENCE OF PRESENCE:

Romney's Achilles' Heel: Can Mitt convince voters he believes anything? (John Dickerson, Oct. 18, 2007, Slate)

Mitt Romney has often undermined himself during the presidential campaign. Even as he has asserted that he is anti-abortion, he has been dogged by video clips and statements from his 1994 Senate and 2002 gubernatorial campaigns, in which he robustly defended a woman's right to have an abortion. On several other subjects there also seem to be two stories: gun control (for/against); gays (their champion/not so much); and even Ronald Reagan himself (distance/hug). The individual changes of position have caused minor irritation for him. The cumulative effect of them all is the big problem. Taken together, they suggest, as a nonaffiliated veteran of Republican politics put it, "that he has no core." [...]

[A]sk voters about Romney's flip-flops, and they speak out loud. In a recent Des Moines Register poll, likely caucus attendees listed Romney's multiple positions as his biggest liability—on par with Rudy Giuliani's pro-choice stance on abortion. In a Pew Center poll, only 12 percent of respondents thought of Mitt Romney when the word honest was presented to them, the lowest of the four major Republican candidates. A Washington Post/ABC News poll showed that only 13 percent of Republicans find Mitt Romney honest and trustworthy, also the lowest of the four major Republican candidates. A CNN/Opinion Research poll found that 15 percent of adults found Mitt Romney to be the most honest—again, the bottom of the field.

Like all of the big questions that dog the candidates, this problem has been with Romney for a while—even before the presidential race. "He's not pro-choice or anti-choice," said Senate opponent Ted Kennedy in 1994. "He's multiple choice." Romney hasn't been able to dispense with questions about his constancy, and the concerns are only becoming more relevant as Republicans fight over which candidate is a more genuine conservative.

Posted by Orrin Judd at October 18, 2007 7:46 PM
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