Romney's political shifts stir criticism

By Steve Leblanc

Associated Press

Published: Saturday, Nov. 12 2011 12:00 a.m. MST

Kogut said she was surprised by Romney's shift.

"This is a man who had run for office before," Kogut said. "Clearly he had thought about it. It was a surprise to see him change so dramatically when he decided to run for president."

There were other shifts.

In 2005 Romney vetoed an embryonic stem cell research bill saying the research "crosses the boundary of ethics." Romney, whose wife, Ann, has multiple sclerosis, had previously voiced support for stem cell research, which advocates say holds the promise of treatment for a range of debilitating physical conditions.

Romney said his position evolved as he began to better understand the implications of embryonic stem cell research.

"It is wrong to allow science to take an assembly line approach to the production of human embryos, the creation of which will be rooted in experimentation and destruction," Romney said in a 2005 letter to lawmakers explaining his veto.

The Democrat-controlled Massachusetts Legislature quickly overturned the veto.

While Romney has found himself under fire from conservatives in his own party, others say they take his political evolution at face value.

Kristian Mineau, president of the Massachusetts Family Institute, which opposes gay marriage and abortion, called Romney "a great champion." Mineau said he believed that it was during the stem cell debate that Romney began to seriously examine some of his core values.

"I believe it was a genuine change of heart," Mineau said. "We have to give the governor the benefit of the doubt, and he has never wavered since."

Of all his past and present positions that Romney has tried to square, the most public has been his decision to sign Massachusetts' 2006 landmark health care overhaul — a sweeping law that provided a blueprint for Obama's health care law, the same law Romney has vowed to dismantle.

Ironically the "Romneycare" vs. "Obamacare" debate has also provided Romney with his most succinct retort. Romney has said the issues of health care should be left to the states, not the federal government.

It's a response that allows him to both defend his signature policy as governor while calling for the undoing of a very similar federal policy.

And on the question of gay rights and same-sex marriage, Romney has repeatedly pointed out that he never endorsed gay marriage, even during his 2002 campaign for governor.

Boston College political science professor Marc Landy said Romney's political contortions are inevitable given his electoral history.

To position himself for a run for president, Romney first chose to run for governor in one of the most liberal states in the nation. That forced him to adopt positions in keeping with Massachusetts' tradition of elected Republicans who are fiscally conservative but socially moderate.

Many of those social positions were inherently viewed as too liberal once Romney waded into the far more conservative GOP presidential waters — a gulf that was all too apparent as Romney awkwardly tacked to the right during his 2008 run for the nomination.

"I think he was really buffaloed by his strategy," Landy said. "He did this very ham-handed move to the right. It was dreadful to watch ... it made him look like the worst kind of hypocrite."

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