Mitt Romney's caution and even aloofness in debate has come under withering attack.
He has approached the debates as a front runner who only has to avoid losing. Although he has espoused liberal positions in the past--probably partly a reflection of the political realities of serving as governor of a liberal state as much as personal conviction--Romney appears to enjoy the support of the Republican Party establishment. He has described himself as a progressive and moderate Republican:
Romney has nimbly avoided severe missteps in his efforts to reconcile a liberal history with conservative candidacy. There is nothing inherently contradictory about serving as a liberal chief executive of a state and serving as a conservative chief executive for the nation. Our federal system permits that. He can consistently assert his belief in limited, enumerated powers for the federal government while as the same time advocating an energetic state government. This is essentially how he has finessed conservative objections to "Romney Care" in Massachusetts.
He acknowledged changing his views on on some issues. Cloning apparently brought about a reconsideration of his positions on abortion and the Roe v. Wade Supreme Court decision. And on other issues he simply flip flopped. He was for the bailouts except when he wasn't. He remains primarily a fiscal conservative, concerned about the federal budget and the economy. His personal character seems impeccable. Many conservatives see in his polling numbers the only candidate that can defeat Obama. Even conservative bomb-thrower Ann Coulter came out in support. Other conservatives, especially those affiliated with the Tea Party movement, keep waiting for the "Not-Romney" candidate with more convincing conservative credentials.
Rich Perry emerged as the first. He proved the most aggressive challenger to Romney, but he quickly imploded.
Now Newt Gingrich of all people has emerged as the new "Not-Romney" and favorite of many in the Tea Party movement. Like Romney, during most of the debates he has tried to remain above the fray. But now that Newt has replaced Perry as Romney's chief obstacle to the nomination, the gloves have come off as Romney tried to appeal the Tea Party conservatives with pejorative remarks about career politicians.
Meanwhile, Michele Bachmann, noting the similarities of their views, announced the candidacy of Newt Romney. She turned Romney into a newt.
The next debate could be very interesting.