05/04/2011 03:21 pm ET | Updated Jul 04, 2011

Mitt Romney Loses Support Of Key New Hampshire Operative From 2008

Some bad news for presumed candidate for president and putative frontrunner Mitt Romney today. Mother Jones' Andy Kroll reports that Bruce Keough, who "oversaw Romney's 2008 campaign" in the state of New Hampshire, won't be re-upping with Romney for his 2012 run, and will instead shop around for a new prospect to back -- maybe something in a "Tim Pawlenty" or a "Mitch Daniels."

Keough's reasons for quitting on Mitt? Something about the way Romney is constantly changing his positions on things. I mean, who knew that Romney did this stuff, right?

It's this ever-changing persona that soured Keough on Romney. "I don't think the voters are looking for somebody who's going to be recasting himself," he says. "They want somebody who's been true to a certain set of political ideals for a while." Which isn't to say that Keough completely disagrees with Romney. He tempers his criticism by saying Romney "has been strong at times" and has "a lot of assets as a candidate." Still, Keough adds, Romney "manages to say things that cause people to think, 'Wait a second: I thought I knew him, and now I'm not so sure.'"

The weird thing is, as far back as Romney's 2008 campaign, I basically thought that being able to accept Romney's many position-switches was a requirement to have a job in his campaign at all. Romney used to say that he'd "preserve and protect" reproductive rights, but in 2008, he changed his mind. Additionally, he was a big fan, in 2005, of Senator John McCain's vision of comprehensive immigration reform, but by the time they were campaigning against one another, Romney was calling it an "amnesty plan." Of course, McCain himself basically switched-positions on that issue, too. But Romney made similar reversals on "Don't Ask, Don't Tell," gun control and campaign finance.

Now, of course, Romney has taken a bold stance against the health care reform package that he labored to make a reality in Massachusetts (and which, in 2008, made him a somewhat attractive candidate to independent voters and moderate Democrats) because it ended up giving birth to the Affordable Care Act, the repeal of which is something Romney is required to run on in order to win the favor of the GOP base.

It's not exactly a mystery that this constant flipping and flopping is Romney's stock-in-trade. As David Frum famously opined, Romney "cannot fake sincerity." But the good news was that this was okay, because Romney was like the Olive Garden!

I sometimes imagine that Romney approaches politics in the same spirit that the CEO of Darden Restaurants approaches cuisine. Darden owns Olive Garden, Longhorn steakhouses, and Red Lobster among other chains. Now suppose that Darden’s data show a decline in demand for mid-priced steak restaurants and a rising response to Italian family dining. Suppose they convert some of their Longhorn outlets to Olive Gardens. Is that “flip-flopping”? Or is that giving people what they want for their money?


You may say: But what does Romney think on the inside? Which of his positions is the “real” Romney? I’d answer that question with another question. Suppose an Olive Garden customer returns to the kitchen a plate of fettuccine alfredo, complaining the pasta is overcooked. What should the manager do? Say “I disagree”? Explain that it’s a core conviction to cook pasta to a certain specified number of minutes and seconds, and if the customer doesn’t like it, she’s welcome to take her patronage elsewhere? No! It doesn’t matter what the manager “really” thinks. What matters is satisfying each and every customer who walks through the door to the very best of the manager’s ability.

It would seem that Keough has tired of touting "endless breadsticks."

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