The Boston Globe has a short compendium of Mitt Romney’s various shifts to the “center,” made over the last two months of the presidential campaign. In February, for instance, Romney announced his full support of the Blunt Amendment, which would allow employers to deny coverage of contraceptives based off of “religious or moral convictions.” During the second presidential debate, however, Romney turned his back on that position, telling Americans that he doesn’t “believe employers should tell someone whether they could have contraceptive care of not.”
In June, Romney wrote that he would support legislation to end funding to Planned Parenthood and “advocate” for a bill to “protect unborn children who are capable of feeling pain from abortion.” But just a few weeks ago, he told the Des Moines Register that “There’s no legislation with regards to abortion that I’m familiar with that would become part of my agenda.” On immigration, he spent the better part of the Republican primary running to the right of his opponents, and pledging his support for Arizona-style laws and “self-deportation.” He told one audience that he would veto the DREAM Act, which would provide a pathway to citizenship for non-native children of undocumented immigrants. But at the second presidential debate, he endorsed that exact same policy, saying that he thinks “The kids of those that came here illegally…should have a pathway to become a permanent resident of the United States.”
Unlike John Kerry, Romney’s glide from position to position hasn’t harmed him with the public — he’s still a stone’s throw away from the presidency. But it does pose a problem for voters and analysts. How can we determine the agenda of a President Romney if his rhetoric is filled with contradictory and mutually exclusive promises?
Absent some major revelation that gives a sense of the “real Romney,” the best way to figure out what a President Romney would do is to look at his party. This runs against our tendency to focus on the person themselves, but it’s our most reliable guide. And what it tells us — pundits aside — is that as the leader of the current Republican Party, Romney would govern as a conservative Republican.
If elected, Mitt Romney will do what all presidents do: Try to build a lasting advantage for their party, as well as implement its main objectives. On the issues above, the GOP’s position is clear: It opposes the wide availability of abortion, easy access to contraceptives, more open immigration laws, and greater federal spending on any number of priorities (federal disaster relief, for instance). Its core priorities are greater tax cuts for wealthy Americans, and a long-term reduction of the social safety net.
To put this another way, Republicans voters and activists forced their candidates to commit to a wide array of right-wing positions. Given their ability to discipline politicians at every level of government (the primary against Bob Bennett in 2010, for example), we should assume — above all — that a President Mitt Romney would be under the same pressure.