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5 things you’ll hear about Mitt Romney


This news story was published on February 20, 2012.
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By Todd Spangler, Detroit Free Press –

WASHINGTON — Through dozens of debates, TV spots, spin room appearances and more, the case for and against Mitt Romney has taken shape. With the campaigns at full speed in Michigan — and the Feb. 28 primary looming — we vet some of the chief claims, pro and con:

—”He’s the man to beat President Barack Obama.”

This claim, or something like it, is a central message of the Romney campaign. Then again, all the candidates make the same claim — they can’t all be right.

Romney’s claim is, or at least had been, stronger than the others’, and here’s why: Until recently, he led Obama in some national and state polls in a head-to-head matchup (including in Michigan), and the others did not.

As the Republican primary season has dragged on without a clear-cut front-runner and economic news has brightened, Obama has seen his standing improve: In the latest CBS/New York Times poll, he had a 48 percent to 42 percent lead on Romney (and larger leads on the others).

One note: These numbers can swing hard based on world events, rising or falling unemployment rates, economic data, debate performances, etc. Whoever wins the GOP nomination is likely to see his standing head-to-head against Obama improve. Then it will be a question of whether it lasts into the fall.

—”Romney’s a flip-flopper.”

This is a claim that has dogged Romney for two election cycles now, and there’s a reason for it: Some of his positions have changed, none more so than on abortion.

Running for U.S. Senate in 1994 and Massachusetts governor in 2002, Romney said he would “preserve and protect a woman’s right to choose.” Now, he is anti-abortion rights. Critics suggest the switch is for political expediency. In 1994, he was believed by some to be concealing an anti-abortion rights agenda.

Romney acknowledges the change, saying it came during his tenure as governor as he began to consider specific pieces of legislation — particularly those involving embryonic stem cell research and the morning-after pill. The Massachusetts Citizens for Life group, for one, says it considers Romney consistently pro-life.

Romney’s critics also say it’s unclear whether he supported Ronald Reagan: In ’94, he said he was an independent during Reagan’s term; since then, he has invoked Reagan as a model — again, saying his thinking has changed. Reagan, for the record, was a Democrat and president of the Screen Actors Guild union before he was a Republican.

—”Romney’s health care reform disqualifies him.”

This is perhaps the most persistent charge against Romney: that as governor, he signed a law similar to the health care law passed by the Democratic Congress in 2010. Critics say that it takes it off the table as a campaign issue in the general election.

It’s true, the Massachusetts law has similarities with the national law, including a mandate that individuals buy health insurance and subsidies for lower-income individuals. And Romney has defended the plan, saying — with evidence to back him up — that the Massachusetts law has been a success and public support has been high.

But Romney has pledged to repeal the national law. He says the Massachusetts law never was intended to be a national model.

Massachusetts’ situation was unique: The majority of people already had some kind of insurance, and the state was getting federal money for uncompensated care that it was able to use for subsidies. There was conservative support for it, too.

—”Romney supported the bailout.”

First, let’s be clear what bailout we’re talking about: None of the Republican candidates supported spending taxpayer funds on the rescue of General Motors and Chrysler as orchestrated by President Barack Obama’s auto task force.

But Romney — like Newt Gingrich but unlike his chief rival in Michigan, Rick Santorum, as well as Ron Paul — did support the bailout of Wall Street as a necessary step “to prevent a cascade of bank collapses,” according to factcheck.org . He did so despite a rising tide of conservative voices against it. People such as former President George W. Bush’s Treasury Secretary Hank Paulson believed an economic collapse of enormous proportions was on the horizon unless the financial institutions were helped.

What Romney and many of the others did not support — and said so at the time — was any expansion of the bailout and using the money for other purposes.

—”Romney’s not conservative enough.”

Ultimately, this perception seems to be the one most dogging Romney. Polls show him failing to pick up support among the most conservative voters. The question is why?

From a political standpoint, it’s not as though Romney’s positions are left of the others. He wants to cut taxes, reduce regulations, repeal health care reform.

But his position as the perceived front-runner, his record as governor of a blue state, his own health care bill and his support by much of the Republican establishment alienates fed-up conservatives. His performances — in answering questions about his taxes, for instance — have been uneven.

Last week during a panel discussion on this year’s elections, consultant Whit Ayres compared GOP primary voters to a high school girl and Romney to the clean-cut, respectful boy her father wants her to marry. And, she tells her dad, “I want to marry somebody I love.”

Some recent polls show voters are backing Santorum but believe Romney has the better chance of winning the nomination and beating Obama.

“I think she ends up marrying the straight arrow,” Ayres said, going on with his analogy. “But she is really torn right now.”

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