HEMPSTEAD, NY — Democrats are boasting how President Obama plans to tie Mitt Romney to his more conservative primary positions during Tuesday’s night’s debate after letting him redefine himself at their first meeting. But Rep. Pete King (R-NY) thinks portraying Romney as a shape-shifting politician won’t work. That’s because Americans expect him to be one already.
“Just talking practical politics I think voters discount a lot of that,” King told TPM Tuesday at Hofstra University in New York, where the debate is taking place. “They expect that in a general campaign that candidates are are going to take their old positions and make them more centrist, whether they’re Democrat or Republican.”
He added that, “I don’t think, necessarily, Mitt Romney’s changing his positions. What he’s doing is making them sound more centrist.”
Obama and his campaign aides tore into Romney’s claims during the first debate that he would not cut taxes for the rich or make it legal for insurance companies to deny coverage to sick people, both of which contradict his past positions. The president sounds especially eager to revisit the topic in Tuesday’s debate, often joking on the campaign trail that “the real Mitt Romney” didn’t show up in Denver.
“It would be a mistake to label this as flip-flopping,” Obama deputy campaign manager Stephanie Cutter wrote in an e-mail to supporters previewing the debate on Tuesday. “This is a deliberate attempt to hide and even misrepresent the real positions he’s held loudly and unabashedly during this entire race — a last-minute effort to ‘make the sale’ just like he did in the boardroom to close a deal.”
As part of a general plan to press Romney to offer more specifics, one Obama campaign official suggested that one newer issue to watch in the debate is Romney’s line that his economic plan would create 12 million jobs. Washington Post Fact Checker Glenn Kessler savaged the claim in a post on Tuesday that included a concession from a top Romney economic adviser that the total number was spread out over a timeframe as long as ten years.
“The math doesn’t add up and he’s going to have to answer for that tonight,” the official said.
Benjy Sarlin is a reporter for Talking Points Memo and co-writes the campaign blog, TPM2012. He previously reported for The Daily Beast/Newsweek as their Washington Correspondent and covered local politics for the New York Sun.