By Chris Cillizza And Shailagh Murray
Sunday, May 20, 2007
Flip floppery is everywhere in American politics these days.
Former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney (R) used to support abortion rights, but now, seeking the votes of conservatives in New Hampshire and South Carolina, he doesn't. Former senator John Edwards (D-N.C.) voted to store nuclear waste at Yucca Mountain in Nevada, but now that the state is hosting an early caucus, he opposes such a plan. Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) said in 2000 that he saw no benefit from ethanol, but now, hoping for a win in corn-crazy Iowa, he sees the alternative fuel as practical, though he's still opposed to subsidizing it.
While flip-flopping -- or, more delicately put, a change in position -- has always been a part of political campaigns, President Bush turned it into a deadly political weapon in 2004. Who can forget the footage of Sen. John Kerry (D-Mass.) insisting that he voted for the $87 billion in Iraq funding before he voted against it? The Bush team used the comment to paint Kerry as the ultimate flip-flopping politician.
Charges of flip-flopping are clearly effective, but is it reasonable to expect politicians who have spent years or even decades in political life to never change their minds on a single issue? And are there certain issues on which flip-flopping is okay and others on which it is political poison?
Following last week's Republican presidential debate in South Carolina, which was dominated by flip-flop talk, The Fix put that question to a pair of seasoned politicians gathered in the "spin room" to flack for their preferred 2008 candidate.
Sen. Jim DeMint (R-S.C.), who is supporting Romney in the presidential race, said that he struggled when he arrived in Congress in 1999 with trying to reconcile lessons learned in the private sector with votes he was taking on the floor of the House and, as a result, some of his policy stances evolved over the years.
DeMint said Romney had been far more consistent than he had been portrayed by the media. On abortion, DeMint said that Romney's "values have always been the same" and that when Romney "saw his political position was out of sync with his personal values, he changed it."
Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), a backer of McCain's presidential bid, also defended the right and necessity for politicians to occasionally adjust their positions.
"If you're not learning, then you're useless to your constituents," Graham said. He added, however, that not all "learning" is created equal. "There are personal conversions, and then there are political conversions," said Graham. "People will figure this out over time."
Who could he be talking about?
Saul Shorr has been around Democratic politics forever. So has Sen. Chris Dodd (Conn.). What a perfect match! Shorr signed on recently as the principal ad man for Dodd's presidential campaign and has already produced an ad that hit the Iowa and New Hampshire airwaves last week. In his 2004 reelection race, Dodd used David Axelrod to handle media, but Axelrod is firmly ensconced in the presidential campaign hierarchy of Sen. Barack Obama (D-Ill.) this time around. Shorr was available and was coming off a 2006 cycle in which he spearheaded Sen. Bob Casey Jr.'s (D-Pa.) defeat of Rick Santorum.
Dodd has also added Joe Rutledge to his media team. Rutledge has spent most of his career in commercial advertising and had a creative hand in the Priceline.com ads featuring actor-turned-crooner William Shatner.