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Michael Gerson's op-ed column on Mitt Romney's re-emergence as a more centrist candidate, and Obama's anger at this change.
WASHINGTON--Mitt Romney's debate message has become his campaign strategy. In Denver, he was a bipartisan dealmaker, concerned about the lives of real people, especially when they inhabit battleground states. A day later, he apologized for his 47 percent comment--which should have been done weeks before. In that same interview, he went on to talk about social mobility: "The gap between the rich and the poor has gotten larger. I want the poor to get into the middle class." His stump speech now features populist themes. Romney has discovered his inner centrist.
After considering their range
So is Romney being "dishonest" (Axelrod) or tacking a bit toward the middle, as presidential candidates often do? Is this readjustment fraudulent, or merely later than expected?
For the most part, Romney has shifted his tone and emphasis, not his policy. All along, he has proposed tax reform, not merely tax cuts. He never opposed all federal financial regulations--though this is not the kind of thing a Republican emphasizes in the primaries. In these cases, Romney hasn't changed his plans. He has merely refuted caricatures of his plans. You can hardly blame a man for refusing to be a straw man.
On a few issues in the debate, Romney's transformation seemed a little too eager. Maintaining education funding seems at odds with his proposal for a 5 percent, across-the-board cut in federal discretionary spending--though it wouldn't be that hard to make up $3.5 billion in education cuts elsewhere in a $425 billion domestic discretionary budget, if this is Romney's intention. His health plan would not guarantee insurance coverage for people with pre-existing conditions in every case. But it would heavily subsidize the purchase of health insurance, and guarantee that anyone with coverage could move from insurance to insurance without facing pre-existing condition exclusions.