Still, Romney has sounded a different note of late on a growing list of issues.
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.”
Among some conservatives, Romney’s shifts have resurrected misgivings about a candidate who began his political career in liberal Massachusetts in the 1990s as a moderate on issues such as abortion, gay rights and gun control.
“I’m running out of fingers and toes to count the number of positions he has taken on abortion,” said Steve Deace, a conservative radio host in Iowa. “I don’t know anybody in the pro-
family movement who is not for sale who trusts him. People want to know who the person is that they are voting for at their core.”
But others suggest that they are not concerned — especially when they consider the alternative.
“Romney is on record on the issues socially conservative voters care about: Obamacare, religious liberty, unborn life and marriage,” said Ralph Reed, who heads the Faith and Freedom Coalition, which seeks to mobilize religious conservatives. “The contrast between him and Obama on those issues could not be starker.”
Nia-Malika Henderson and Philip Rucker contributed to this report.