When Mitt Romney blew into CPAC as one of the likely frontrunners for the GOP nomination, he gave his speech, presented his case and collected his second-place straw poll finish all without making a single mention of the issue that all of his primary opponents were sure to mention during the campaign: Romneycare, which begat Obamacare.
At the time, I think Mitt was following the "Who knows? Maybe no one will bring it up!" strategy.
But since then, it's been brought up, repeatedly. So now Romney is addressing the issue in a typical sideways fashion: he's proud of his accomplishment, there are things that he would change if he could, but he will absolutely do away with the Affordable Care Act. Basically, what it boils down to is that Romney was all in favor of the individual mandate when voters were inclined to look upon it positively. Now that it could cost him votes, however, the individual mandate is something that should only exist in Massachusetts.
This sort of pandering is nothing new, but no politician has managed it with less deftness in recent years than Mitt Romney, whose changes of mind are usually carried out with all the subtlety of a midair zeppelin crash. Over at The Ticket, Holly Bailey asks, "But is Romney's bigger problem that GOP voters think he's a phony?" I guess that all depends on whether GOP voters remember or care about the ways in which Romney has switched positions on abortion or gay rights or immigration or campaign finance law or gun control.
[Video produced by Ben Craw.]
Bailey sends us on to Glen Johnson at the Boston Globe, who has further thoughts on Romney's battle with "authenticity":
Earlier in the week, as potential rival Newt Gingrich traveled to Georgia to reveal he was laying the groundwork for his own presidential exploratory committee, Romney himself decided to make a little news during his own visit to the state.
Following a path trodden by other politicians such as Gingrich and former President Carter, Romney decided to visit Tommy Thomas's barbershop in Atlanta.
"Just got a Trim at Tommy's in Atlanta," Romney wrote on his Twitter account, which also posted a photo of the visit.
It showed Romney with his trademark mane of perfectly coiffed, perfectly gelled hair -- and barely a speck of hair on the cloth around his neck or the smock across his chest.
When Globe colleague Matt Viser called Thomas to find out more about the visit, the barber told him he hardly touched Romney's hair.
"I gave him a super-light trim," Thomas said. "He wanted to know what our concerns were, what everyone thought of what's going on in Washington."
That's classic Romney. And, as Dave Weigel points out, "People have long memories about this stuff."
I asked Andrew Ian Dodge, the Maine Tea Party activist and current Senate candidate against Olympia Snowe, what he thought of Romney's speech.
"So the guy who created the socialized medicine that was partly the basis for Obamacare is the only person who can dismantle Obamacare?" asked Dodge. "That makes no sense."
Of course, it's actually pretty much accepted conventional wisdom in Washington that the only people who should be trusted to undo something are the people who did it in the first place (see also: global financial crisis, BP oil spill, war in Afghanistan, etc.)