COMMENTARY | Why is it when Mitt Romney debates another Republican, the attacks seem so personal? It's not about money or polls or even his religion. GOP candidates hate how Mitt Romney switches positions, and then attacks them from his newfound ideology.
Guys, remember the fellow student who told you that sports were dumb? Then, a year later, he's wearing his varsity letterman jacket, sneering at you for not joining the team. Gals, remember the girl who said boys had the cooties, then teased you incessantly because she kissed a guy first?
It all goes back to the 2008 election, where liberals like Rudy Giuliani, moderates like John McCain, and conservatives like Mike Huckabee and Fred Dalton Thompson were united by one factor: an intense dislike of Mitt Romney.
The Romney camp dismissed it the anger. An aide claimed that the dislike came because Romney was "the outsider candidate. He's not from Washington and he's going to change Washington. He's not part of their club," wrote Ana Marie Cox from TIME Magazine. But only McCain and Thompson served in Washington. Furthermore, nothing about Romney's policies ever constituted a "change" for Washington.
It wasn't because of Romney's antisocial behavior, endless supply of cash he always seemed to be able to tap into, or behavior that would have "his man card revoked," as a recent string of beer commercials would imply. It was "a suspicion of what they see is his hypocrisy and essential phoniness - what one former staffer for Fred Thompson called Romney's 'wholesale reinvention," Cox quoted in her story.
"What Romney has done," a Huckabee aide told Cox for her TIME article readers, "he's attacked people for positions he once held. That annoys people. And he uses his own money to do it, which rubs it in." Cox documented how "he's gone after McCain on campaign finance reform (which he once supported), Huckabee on tax increases (Huckabee countered that Romney's raised 'fees' amounted to the same thing), and nearly all the candidates on immigration."
Now Texas Governor Rick Perry is learning what others found out four years ago when Romney swung to the right wing after a career among the liberals and moderates in Massachusetts. According to Holly Bailey of Yahoo News' The Ticket, Perry refused to say whether he "liked" Romney. "You can't be for banning guns and then all of a sudden you're, you know, for the Second Amendment. You can't be for the issue of abortion, then you're pro-life," Perry said, as quoted in Bailey's story. "How do you change at the age of 50 or 60 positions on life, positions on guns, positions on traditional marriage. I mean those aren't minor issues…So to change those at the age of 50 or 60 tells you all you need to know about that."Watching Romney's recent debate performance, where he slammed Perry for breaking the rules, then deliberately broke them to pose a direct question to Herman Cain, I can see why the Republicans of 2012 would start to sympathize with the Republicans who endured Romney in 2008.
- Mitt Romney
- Ana Marie Cox