Mitt Romney fought hard throughout the Republican primaries to prove that he was conservative enough to satisfy the far right wing of the GOP.
But coming off his performance in the first debate against President Obama where he mitigated and modified nearly everything in his plan and the Republican Party platform, conservatives are raising questions about just where Romney stands on key issues.
The conservative news site NewsMax reported Wednesday that Romney told the Des Moines Register in an interview published a day earlier that he would not pursue abortion-related legislation if elected president.
“There’s no legislation with regards to abortion that I’m familiar with that would become part of my agenda,” Romney told the newspaper, although he did say he would rescind a waiver that Obama signed after taking office that bars U.S. foreign aid to be used to fund abortions.
Romney’s campaign press secretary released a clarification after his remarks cause a kerfuffle among conservatives, which read that the candidate would “of course support legislation aimed at providing greater protections for life.”
In the past, Romney has said he is opposed to abortion, except in cases of rape, incest or to save the life of the mother.
So Romney won’t push the issue, if elected, but he has not said what he would do if Congress passed anti-abortion legislation and sent it to the White House for his signature.
When it comes to the economy, Romney has also modified his stance on a number of issues, including reducing the federal deficit by cutting back federal entitlements and certain tax breaks, which he described during the debate as “not moral.”
But of the 10 largest individual tax deductions that total $842 billion per year, Romney has announced no plans to eliminate any of them to balance the budget.
“I don’t want any change in Medicare for current seniors or for those nearing retirement,” Romney said during an interview with CBS. “No change in Social Security for those that are in retirement or near retirement.”
In a campaign stop in Arizona, he told the crowd he has no plans to eliminate the mortgage interest and charitable donation deductions.
He also said he would continue to subsidize programs education and training programs to help Americans qualify for jobs of the future.
He told CBS’ Scott Pelley that he would not eliminate the capital gains loophole because “it already has been taxed at the corporate level.”
All this will happen while he keeps the Bush tax cuts and reduces tax rates by 20 percent across the board while increasing defense spending.
He has said he would repeal health care reform, but in an interview on NBC’s “Meet the Press,” Romney said he liked some elements of the law and would want to make sure those with preexisting conditions retain coverage and that “the marketplace allows individuals to have policies that cover their families up to any age they might like.”
That flies directly in the face of his own initially stated plan, which admittedly lacked specifics, as well as Ryan’s budget proposal which cuts many entitlements and agency budgets across the board to pay for the tax cuts.
Essentially, Romney would slow down the process of reducing the deficit and mitigate early suggestions that he would get rid of the entitlements and social programs that are immensely popular and difficult for presidents and Congress, including the incumbents, to cut or eliminate.
If Romney really is now committed to a more moderate approach, he may well be risking a budget showdown with Congress, especially if the Republicans retain control of the House of Representatives.
Dyed-in-the-wool and Tea Party conservatives must ask themselves whether they believe the candidate is just saying what moderates, independents and liberals want to hear to bring them along so he can win the White House and then go back to the conservative agenda, OR, if he really was pretending to be conservative so he could win the nomination and now the real Mitt Romney has emerged?
Do they vote and hope he will be true to their plan? Or do they stay home because they can’t bring themselves to vote for Obama, but they can’t vote for Romney either?
And if conservatives are not sure how to vote, why would they expect the rest of the electorate to vote for their candidate?
Jackie Jones, a journalist and journalism educator, is director of the career transformation firm Jones Coaching LLC and author of “Taking Care of the Business of You: 7 Days to Getting Your Career on Track.”