The final weeks of the presidential campaign are bringing Mitt Romney full circle, back to a question that has tugged at him for nearly two decades: What does he really believe?
Although he declared himself “severely conservative” during the Republican primaries, the former Massachusetts governor has been sounding more moderate in recent days...
...On Tuesday, the candidate, who has repeatedly vowed that he would be “a pro-life president,” told the Des Moines Register editorial board that “there’s no legislation with regards to abortion that I’m familiar with that would become part of my agenda.”...
...During last week’s debate with Obama, for instance, Romney insisted that he would not reduce “the share of taxes paid by the wealthy.” At an earlier exchange with his fellow Republicans in February, he declared, “We’re going to cut taxes on everyone across the country by 20 percent, including the top 1 percent.”
Last week, he said: “I reject the idea that I don’t believe in great teachers or more teachers. Every school district, every state, should make that decision on their own.” But in June, he criticized Obama for saying that “we need more firemen, more policemen, more teachers.” Romney added: “It’s time for us to cut back on government.”
Since Obama announced in June a policy that allows some young illegal immigrants to stay in the country, Romney has criticized it and said he would end it. But more recently he added that he would not revoke the deportation reprieves of those who were granted permission to stay.
On health care, Romney boasted during the debate: “I do have a plan that deals with people with preexisting conditions.”
That sounded like an embrace of one of the more popular elements of Obama’s health-care law. But Romney aides confirmed after the debate that his proposal would not cover those whose insurance had lapsed — a significant detail that could affect tens of millions of uninsured people and that the GOP nominee did not mention.
And Romney renounced his suggestion that the “47 percent” of Americans who do not pay income taxes are government-dependent freeloaders after a raft of polls made clear how damaging those words had been.
“I said something that’s just completely wrong,” Romney told conservative host Sean Hannity on Fox News Channel late last week.
His initial response, however, was to stand by the comments. After the secretly recorded video of his remarks at a fundraiser became public, Romney said his sentiment was “not elegantly stated” but served to underscore an important difference between him and Obama.
“The president believes in what I’ve described as a government-centered society where government plays a larger and larger role, provides for more and more of the needs of individuals,” Romney said. “And I happen to believe instead in a free-enterprise, free-individual society where people pursuing their dreams are able to employ one another, build enterprises, build the strongest economy in the world.”