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SALT LAKE CITY — During the Republican presidential primary debates Mitt Romney described himself as "severely conservative" on issues like abortion, immigration, taxes, health care, and education funding. But during his first debate against President Obama, Romney came across much more like a Massachusetts moderate, denying that he has a tax cut plan that will cost $5 trillion over ten years, and emphasizing that bipartisan Congressional cooperation will close the yet-to-be-identified loopholes which will pay for his tax cuts.
It is not unusual for a candidate to run to the right and play to the base in a Republican primary campaign and then pivot toward the center after he becomes his party's presidential nominee. Romney aide Eric Fehrnstrom said as much last March when he told CNN, "I think you hit a reset button for the fall campaign. Everything changes. It's almost like an Etch a Sketch. You can kind of shake it up and restart all over again."
Liberal pundits have tracked substantial changes in Romney's core political beliefs from his 1994 Senate race in Massachusetts against Ted Kennedy when Romney was, for example, pro-choice on abortion. Now, as the pro-life Republican presidential nominee, Romney says that abortion should be illegal except in the case of rape, incest, and the health of the mother.
Some commentators question whether Romney has any firm political beliefs at all. Others have described Romney as a "transactional" candidate, which seems to mean he says whatever needs to be said to close the deal with whomever he's speaking. This may explain why he recently told Fox News that his secretly recorded "47 percent" remarks at a private gathering of wealthy campaign donors earlier this year were "completely wrong."
In any event, by appearing more moderate and less severely conservative, Romney has enjoyed a jump in the polls. If he is elected as our President next month, one wonders which Romney will show up as the leader of 100 percent of the American people.