How did we get to the point where Mitt Romney — who in 2008 was the personification of ideological mallebility and opportunism — is actually turning out to be perhaps the most consistent of the 2012 GOP candidates?
Don’t laugh — it’s true.
Case in point: On Friday, Jon Huntsman, pressed to explain why he thought in 2009 that Obama’s stimulus was too small — a position that would be anathema to the right — insisted that he thought its tax cuts were too small. But now Steve Benen has turned up evidence that in fact Huntsman did say he thought more stimulus spending on the infrastructure was in order.
Indeed, Huntsman in 2009 also said flatly that the stimulus “probably wasn’t big enough.”
Okay, so we have Huntsman doing contortions on the stimulus. But he’s hardly the only 2012 GOP hopeful who is rapidly abandoning once-sensible positions in order to make himself acceptable to 2012 GOP primary voters. We have Newt Gingrich insisting up and down, against all evidence, that he never supported individual mandates, and he’s also twisting himself into knots over Ryancare. And we have Tim Pawlenty reversing himself and apologizing for his previous belief in the potential legitimacy of climate science.
Counterintuitively, the only one who is not flip-flopping on his major liability among GOP primary voters is ... Mitt! Say what you will about Romney, but he is standing by Romneycare in the full knowledge that he will continue to take a beating for it from the right — perhaps a fatal one.
Obviously Mitt has his reasons for doing this. Perhaps he’s concluded that he doesn’t dare flip flop on his primary accomplishment, because it risks feeding his other major vulnerability: His aforementioned lack of authenticity. Or perhaps he thinks he can weather the beating he’s taking over Romneycare because he’s the front-runner, and because the conservatism of all his rivals are also considered suspect.
But whatever the reason, it’s striking that the man who we all remember as the poster child for opportunistic flip-flopping is the one who’s standing out from all his rivals for consistency. It doesn’t speak particularly well of the GOP field, does it?