Is Romney Taking Nixon’s Advice?

Did anyone ever doubt that the "Massachusetts Moderate" who tried to transform himself into a "severely conservative" primary candidate would make a U-turn back to the center after winning the nomination?

For the last remaining skeptics, his senior advisor, Eric Fehrnstrom, removed the veil this week when he invoked the image of an Etch A Sketch toy which allows users to erase the previous picture and draw an entirely different one.

Fehrnstrom gave fodder to his candidate's opponents, who quickly went out and bought several of the toys to use as props in their "I told you so" attacks on the frontrunner.

No one should have been surprised.  Romney was simply following Richard Nixon's advice for Republican candidates:  run to the right for the nomination and to the center for the general election.

Romney's attempts to deny that is his plan were a big vague, confirming the suspicions of his critics.  He said, “the issues I’m running on will be exactly the same” in the fall, but look for the details to change.

Whether or not Romney decides to pivot back to the center will be a critical factor in his ability to win Jewish votes.  His fiscal conservatism may be appealing to many Jewish voters, but if he continues to adhere to his "severely conservative" positions on domestic and social issues he can expect to have serious problems making inroads into Barack Obama's overwhelming Jewish support.  Romney will focus his Jewish outreach on Israel, which Republicans are trying to make a wedge issue again this year, but it has failed in the past and polls show that is not a high priority for most Jewish voters again this year.

On the morning after this week's Illinois primary victory, when it appeared Romney had just about sewn up the GOP nomination and was shifting his attacks from his Republican rivals to President Obama, Fehrnstrom said, “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 we start all over again.”

That was widely taken to mean Romney was planning to move back toward the center to take on the incumbent president.

The gaffe prone Romney — "Corporations are people,"  "I like being able to fire people," "I'm not concerned about the very poor" — is once again in the position of saying, in the words of the old political cliché, "That may be what I said but that's not what I meant."

When his fellow Republicans are done beating him up with this, you can be sure the Democrats will step in with this newest version of the "flip-flopper" charge.

About the Author
Douglas M. Bloomfield is a syndicated columnist, Washington lobbyist and consultant. He spent nine years as the legislative director and chief lobbyist for AIPAC.