The question is not whether Romney has changed his outlook over the years — he undeniably has — but why...
...As governor...His record was liberal on social issues and largely pragmatic on many others. Asked if he would stand by his views in favor of abortion rights, he said, “I make an unequivocal answer: Yes.” He favored a system of trading credits for pollution emissions – known as cap-and-trade — to control global warming, writing that “I concur that climate change is beginning to [affect] . . . our natural resources and that now is the time to take action toward climate protection.” He backed an individual mandate to provide nearly universal health care. All of those positions were anathema to many conservatives, and he would in time change or modify his views on them.
From his standpoint, inside “Romney World” — as his political command center was known — there is an explanation for each recalibration of his views. Romney said he had an epiphany that led him to oppose abortion rights, which he said came in 2004 while studying and then opposing human embryo cloning. He said that a plan for capping and trading pollution credits had become too expensive. And he said that his support of an individual mandate at the state level is different than favoring one overseen by the federal government. Still, these and other shifts caused his Republican presidential primary opponents to label him as a man without a core.
It is a problem not just within the Republican Party, but also among Democrats and independents who may be hoping that Romney is more moderate than he admits — more like his father than he admits — but can’t be sure because of the way his views have shifted.
Presidential ambitions, as well as a keener focus on the kind of national politician he wanted to be, were key factors in the policy shifts, according to a Romney adviser who participated in numerous discussions about the policies.
“The change in the philosophy, ideology, was driven by the fact that he was exploring national office and he came to the realization that to be successful seeking the nomination, you had to become conservative,” said the adviser, who spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not an authorized spokesman. “As he got deeper into the process it became readily apparent to him that something had to happen.”
The adviser couldn’t say if the changes in positions were heartfelt “because I don’t know if the original positions were heartfelt.”...
...Of all those who have studied the question of why Romney has changed his views, the most intriguing pair of investigators may be two of George Romney’s former top aides. Walter De Vries accompanied George to the 1964 convention and served as his political strategist, and Jonathan Moore went to Vietnam with George and served as his foreign policy adviser. The pair have talked for months with each other to try to understand what they consider to be Mitt’s position changes and distancing from his father’s views.
De Vries, asked how he thinks George would view Mitt’s positions today, responded: “He’d be horrified. And Mitt would hear from George about it. I can’t understand or comprehend it . . . I think a lot of people believe that secretly he is a moderate. I don’t believe that. The right, and particularly the radical right, is going to hold him to what he said.”
Moore is not quite as harsh, saying that George “would be very much taken with [Mitt’s] sense of loyalty, drive and competitiveness, very much taken with the prospect of his son winning the presidency. At the same time I think there would be regret. George Romney as a principle believed in belief. He believed in commitment.”
As a former director of Harvard’s Institute of Politics, Moore has studied the lives of countless politicians and dissected Romney’s evolving convictions in his conversations with De Vries. His conclusion: “Maybe he didn’t change. Maybe the key thing about Mitt is he is, as one of his Harvard Business School classmates has said, a ‘driven pragmatist,’ and he was being pragmatic before and now, and it doesn’t represent a strong philosophical shift because it wasn’t there to begin with.”
Others say Romney is simply a much different type of politician than his father or many other presidential candidates.
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