BOSTON -- Some of Mitt Romney’s most generous supporters here love his new look.
"In the last week, Mitt’s been taking a softer tone on some things like immigration and even taxes,” said Andrew P. McLane, a friend of Romney for three decades who has given $200,000 to the Romney-supporting super PAC Restore Our Future. He added, “He should have been doing that earlier. They waited too long for that. Because what happens is that by making this change so late in the game it looks like it’s not genuine."
The Obama campaign response to this week’s debate, in which Romney seemed to stun the president and then pound him for an uninterrupted hour of national television, has been just that.
"My opponent is trying to do a little two-step, trying to wiggle out of things he has been saying for a year," Obama said in Cleveland Friday. "It was like Dancing with the Stars, or Extreme Makeover Debate Edition." Romney's actual philosophy, he said, was out-of-step with the American people.
Obama, of course, failed to make that argument in the debate, before which several of Romney's Boston mega-donors said that the campaign was losing. "The news is the news," said one Romney donor here, who has given $250,000 to Restore Our Future. "But it looks like he’s behind. It’s up to him and his strategic people to figure out what to say and what to do."
According to McLane, Romney’s difficulties among voters had a direct correlation to his previous hard right turn.
“Why is he doing this?” McLane said he thought. “Why is his campaign positioning itself this way? And then I say to myself, there are a lot of smart people working on the campaign and they must feel that at the margin it’s more important to grab votes from the right and stir up the right and get the right out voting heavily. There must be a sense that we can get more of a percentage by leaning our story and our position that way than trying to pull the other way and pulling more moderates and independents. It’s been seeming that way.”
McLane, who also worked with Romney in support of the 2002 Olympic games in Salt Lake City, last saw the candidate on Friday at a campaign fund-raiser here. Romney, he said, made some rudimentary remarks, but joked that he was “probably a little more careful about what he says these days,” referring to the Boca Raton fundraiser in which Romney described 47 percent of Americans as “victims.”
McLane wished that both Romney and Obama would come clean on their tax plans. Romney, he said, had failed to talk about which loopholes he planned to close. “If you tighten up exemptions, it does mean there are going to higher taxes!” he said, adding that any argument that the debt could be reduced without a raise in taxes amounted to “blowing smoke.”
But now he was delighted with the kinder, gentler, more moderate-sounding Romney. “That to me,” he said, “is the way you get more people, more independents on his side.”