What was said: On CNN Mitt Romney Communications Director Eric Fehrnstrom was asked whether or not Romney had been forced to move too far to the right. His response implied that Romney will be able to just reset his positions for the general. (via Think Progress)
HOST: Is there a concern that Santorum and Gingrich might force the governor to tack so far to the right it would hurt him with moderate voters in the general election?
FEHRNSTROM: Well, 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 restart all over again.
Whom the statement is for: Fehrnstrom’s statement seems to be directed primarily at the media and moderate voters. The implication is that once the general election starts the media should treat Romney as though he is a moderate, despite some of the more extreme positions he’s taken during the primary. He didn’t really mean them.
This statement was definitely not directed at the conservative base, which has always been concerned about whether Romney is truly committed to their cause.
Did they really mean it/The record: Romney certainly didn’t earn the nickname ‘flip flop Mitt’ because of his love of casual beach attire. On many important issues from abortion to health care Romney has clearly changed his position based on the electorate he is trying to win over.
Likelihood it will ever actually happen: 90%. If Romney does win the nomination it seems very likely he will at least modify some of his positions to appeal to the broader electorate. The practice of tacking to the center has become so common in American politics, it’s practically expected and almost unavoidable.
Romney still needs the GOP base to turn out for him in the general election, so he will probably remain true to a decent amount of what he ran on in the primary. But a few positions he has taken are probably just too unpopular to stick to. Romney has proven he is all about winning, and if he needs to flip or flop to do that, I expect that he will.
(note: I’m trying a new format to systematically judge/analyze politicians’ statements during the campaign. Please share your thoughts about it.)