Do you recall just seven months ago when Romney campaign aide Eric Fehrnstrom let slip that having won the Republican primaries, his candidate would “shake it up and restart it all over again” as if wiping clean an Etch-a-Sketch screen? Romney did just that last night. From a standing start Romney executed a perfect backward somersault, landing with both feet slap-bang in front of a bemused president, who appeared quite taken aback that his rival should plant his feet firmly in the middle ground where elections are won and lost.
Take Romney’s view of regulating the market. In his personal manifesto No Apology, Romney trod a careful path, suggesting that, like his primary opponents who unwaveringly support the untrammeled free market, he was wary of overregulating business. “Excessive regulation slows the creation of new businesses and the expansion of existing businesses,” he wrote. On his website, he promises to “act swiftly to tear down the vast edifice of regulations the Obama administration has imposed on the economy.”
But in Denver last night, Romney changed his tune, suggesting that he had always been in favor of regulation, whatever impression he may have given in the past. “Regulation is essential,” he declared. “You can’t have a free market work if you don’t have regulation … Every free economy has good regulation.”
Last August, Romney told a roomful of Wall Streeters: “The extent of regulation in the banking industry has become extraordinarily burdensome following Dodd-Frank,” and said, “I’d like to repeal Dodd-Frank,” a carefully worded half-promise to remove regulations imposed on Wall Street in the aftermath of the 2008 collapse. Last night he amended his pledge. “There’s some parts of the Dodd-Frank that make all the sense in the world,” he said, and that rather than repeal it outright, he would “repeal it and replace it” with similar curbs on reckless business practices. Paul Ryan, who cites as an inspiration Ayn Rand, who thought all constraints on business were next to communism, must have been a little surprised at Romney’s brazen about-face.
Romney also wriggled on cutting taxes for the rich. In the primary debate in Rochester, Michigan, in November 2011, he was adamant he wanted to retain the Bush tax cuts, including tax breaks for the super-wealthy. Explaining that he didn’t want to raise taxes on anyone in the middle of a recession, he said: “That’s one of the reasons why we fought so hard to make sure the Bush tax cuts weren’t taken away by President Obama.” It was a refrain he had been repeating since running against John McCain in 2008. At a primary debate in Boca Raton in January 2008, he announced: “I support the Bush tax cuts … One way to [create more jobs] is by holding down taxes and making those tax cuts permanent.”