Mitt Romney is going into the second presidential debate with almost everything going for him: fresh momentum, an enthused Republican base, improved polling numbers, his own impressive array of debating skills and an opponent desperate to make people forget his own limp-noodle performance in the first debate.
But Romney could face one very big problem: He has nearly run out of flip-flops.
The man has, of course, made a career out of changing positions on just about every major issue. In the first debate, though, he took it to a serious new level. The primary candidate who described himself as severely conservative was suddenly a reasonable guy who, as president, would do nothing rash. He would not cut taxes for the rich if it would add to the deficit. He would still kill Obamacare, but he’d keep all the good stuff in it that people like. In fact, after a year of barely mentioning he was governor of liberal Taxachusetts, suddenly Mitt was bragging about his governing days in Boston working with Democrats to get things done -- things like Romneycare, Obamacare’s twin.
The Republican nominee came prepared to disavow his own nasty comments about the allegedly government-dependent 47% of Americans, but President Obama failed to bring it up, so Romney had to do the disavowing on his own the next day. Perhaps Obama’s failure to fully engage in the debate can be ascribed to the shock of seeing Romney abandon his entire campaign persona with such ease.
And Romney has been rewarded for it. Apparently, undecided voters admire a candidate who can turn on a dime and abandon yesterday’s convictions in favor of today’s more convenient ones. But what happens if Romney has run out of convictions to abandon? Is there anything left, any small principle to which he still clings?
Well, there is one.
In tonight’s debate, look for yesterday’s Mormon to show up as a guy who can’t remember ever visiting Salt Lake City.