As other Republican candidates have stumbled their way toward the presidential primaries, Mitt Romney has put together what would seem to be all the elements of a winning campaign: an effective staff, a robust treasury and smooth, knowledgeable performances both in debates and on the trail.Steadiness and constancy.
But for months, the threshold of support for the former Massachusetts governor hasn't inched above a quarter of Republican voters in national polls. For many GOP voters in early primary states, hesitation about Romney comes back to one thing: their perception that he has routinely molded his views to suit the political mood, with ambition his overriding principle.
"He's not a person we could trust to lead our country," said Angela Cesar, a 41-year-old Republican from Ypsilanti, Mich., who said Romney had changed his position on too many issues. "He's going to be listening to voices outside. I want someone who can hear his own voice — a clear voice."
Steve Holroyd, a 54-year-old chef from Rye, N.H., was initially attracted to Romney's candidacy, but now describes him as evasive: "The more I listen to him, the more he just kind of flip-flops and doesn't know where he stands on anything."
Romney's advisors say the argument that their candidate is a political contortionist will not resonate because voters are concerned about the economy — and little else. But in his failed 2008 bid, when the issue was raised — as now — by opponents, it hit its mark not because of the issues involved but because of what Romney's flip-flops suggested about his character.
The campaign demonstrated sensitivity to the problem in this race: Romney has strongly defended the health insurance mandate that he instituted in Massachusetts, even though it is reviled by GOP voters, rather than reverse himself on it. Romney's aides have also leveled charges of flip-flopping at GOP rival Rick Perry and at President Obama, who Romney strategist Stuart Stevens said has "a new slogan and a new mission every day."
Asked about the criticism during a recent Michigan debate, Romney said: "I think people understand that I'm a man of steadiness and constancy."
Video: Via Right Klik.