Mitt Romney: Turnaround Artist

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Mitt Romney is a man who has held multiple positions on the issues—sometimes on the same issue. In 2008, his campaign aides had a term they preferred for him: a "turnaround" artist. They were referring to his track record in reviving struggling businesses, but one could be forgiven for assuming it applies to his stance on social issues.

Romney, the former Massachusetts governor, once supported abortion rights, gay rights, and gun control, and pioneered the health care overhaul plan (with individual mandates) that the federal reform is modeled on. He ran a strong campaign in 2008 for the Republican primary by tacking hard to the right. This year finds him riding the Tea Party wave even further in that direction, on a platform of anti-elite rhetoric and opposition to the federal health care legislation, abortion rights, gay rights, and big government in general.  

But Romney has several things going for him which make him a likely contender in the upcoming elections. He has money—lots of it. He has experience, as someone who ran for the nomination in 2008, and as a former CEO, he can talk the private market talk. Finally, his political hard-right turn may appeal to social conservatives, while also making him appear savvy and strategic enough to appease more cynical Republican insiders—who, after all, may want a candidate that can win, even more than they want one who has stayed consistent.

One thing is certain, whether you like Mitt Romney or not—the Elvis remix makes a seriously rocking soundtrack to his MySpace page.  

Romney grew up in rarefied privilege as the son of the wealthy state governor; he attended a private boys prep school, Stanford, Harvard Law School and Harvard Business School, but that doesn't hold him back from the party line rhetoric that Washington is run by “elites." He is out with a new paperback edition of his latest book, No Apology, newly revised to cater to a more conservative base, that laments how the "elites" have destroyed the country. In a move to look less elite himself, perhaps, Romney sold two of his four multimillion-dollar homes in 2009, though not his 11-acre estate in New Hampshire (a convenient outpost for early campaigning).

Romney is, at this point, the presumed front-runner for 2012, and came in second in the CPAC straw poll. A recent profile in Time magazine said Romney is looking good and running strong, noting that four days before the 2010 midterm elections, Romney was getting applause for just walking into a room.

Here he is on David Letterman, looking uncomfortable but game, giving the "Top Ten Things You Didn't Know About Mitt Romney" (number five: In high school, I was voted "mittiest").


Here is where the Mittiest stands on the issues:

Taxing and Spending

Romney hated the recent bipartisan tax compromise. In a recent op-ed, he wrote that unemployment insurance discourages people from getting jobs, and that temporary tax rates foment insecurity in a way that scares off investors. In a 2007 speech in Montana, Romney called for higher military spending, saying the difference between Democrats and Republicans is that Democrats believe the strength of America lies with a strong government, but “the truth is that the source of America’s strength is the American people." 

Health Care Reform

This is already starting to look like Romney's personal albatross. The problem? Romney introduced a health care plan in Massachusetts which included a mandate that almost everyone must buy insurance—very similar to that favorite federal target of the very Tea Party supporters he is now trying to woo. Romney differentiates the Massachusetts plan from the federal one by pointing out that the state law didn't raise taxes, but MIT economist Jonathan Gruber, an advisor on Romney and Obama's health care plans, calls that distinction "a cheap way out," saying, "The only way we could do it without raising taxes was that the feds paid half the cost."


This is another tricky issue for Romney. He once was a supporter of abortion rights—in 1994 he publicly said, "I believe that abortion should be safe and legal in this country," and as a governor, he supported abortion rights. He has since completely reversed his stance. In 2007, he said that he thinks it should be up to each state to decide, but that same month he told George Stephanopoulos there should be an amendment to the Constitution to protect fetuses.  

Foreign Policy

Romney has had no argument with the White House's handling of the situation in Egypt. He has expressed dismay that American consumption of oil is making money for other countries and indicated that he feels it is imperative to make the United States energy independent, both by investing in alternative fuels and by drilling for more oil. 

The Environment

Romney supports drilling in the Artic refuge and referred to cap-and-trade as "yet another big government initiative that will do nothing to stem the millions of gallons of oil spilling into the ocean." Of course, in 2005 he called cap-and -trade "good for business".

As governor of Massachusetts, he demanded the clean up of the Salem Harbor Station power plant, one of the state's biggest polluters, and made strong statements like, "If the choice is between dirty power plants or protecting the health of the people of Massachusetts, I will always come down on the side of public health," and, "I will not protect jobs that kill people."

Gay Rights

Here's Romney on gay marriage in 1994: "People of integrity don't force their beliefs on others, they make sure that others can live by different beliefs they may have." 

Fast-forward ten years. Romney was a major champion of the federal Defense of Marriage bill, a federal law defining marriage as between one man and one woman only, which President Obama recently said his administration will no longer defend. Opposition to marriage equality was a major part of his 2008 campaign platform and he continues to assert that same-sex marriage poses a threat to heterosexual marriages

He's now the target of a campaign by former GOP political consultant Fred Karger to get him back in touch with his younger, more tolerant self, and use that self to pressure the Mormon church to stop bankrolling efforts to block gay marriage.