Just a year later, Romney emerged as a leading voice against gay marriage, opposing the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court’s ruling overturning the ban on same-sex marriage.
With Romney’s positions evolving on everything from abortion to gay rights, embryonic stem cell research to health care, the Republican presidential candidate has faced charges of political opportunism from Republicans and Democrats alike.
In a Web video last month, Texas Gov. Rick Perry highlighted Romney’s shifts on health care and illegal immigration and reminded voters, “You cannot lead a nation by misleading the people.”
Obama’s senior strategist, David Axelrod, posed this question to reporters in a conference call last month: “If you are willing to change positions on fundamental issues of principle, how can we know what you will do as president?”
Romney’s answer from last Wednesday’s debate: “I think people understand that I’m a man of steadiness and constancy.”
To counter the criticism, he said he’s been married to the same woman for four decades, has been a member of the same church his entire life and worked at one company for 25 years.
Romney — who is leading opinion polls in the GOP race — hopes that the argument will help him get beyond what dogged his 2008 campaign.
This time, the electorate’s focus on the troubled economy may overshadow Romney’s shifts. The former venture capitalist and Harvard Business School alumnus is counting on it as he plays up his business experience.
“With the economy being the absolutely overriding issue, even in the GOP primaries where the social conservatives are typically in control, maybe he’s finally found an election cycle that plays to his sweet spot,” said Boston University communications professor Tobe Berkovitz. “The planets are all lining up.”
Still, Perry and Romney’s other rivals portray him as a political chameleon — and probably will try again during Saturday night’s debate in South Carolina.