Hey, we get it. Republicans don’t win office in Massachusetts by proclaiming themselves as Ronald Reagan conservatives. When running for governor in 2002, Romney needed to sell himself as a Republican that represented the mainstream of liberal Massachusetts, which is why he told reporters in this clip that he was a “moderate” Republican who was “not a partisan,” and that “my views are progressive.” He told them what he needed in order to win the election.
The question is whether that was his strategy then and he was a secret conservative all along, or whether that’s his strategy today and he’s really a progressive:
Is it possible that Romney had a wide-ranging transformation from “progressive” to conservative? Of course it is; it happens quite a bit. Usually that entails admitting that one was a progressive prior to the conversion, however. With the exception of abortion, Romney has argued that he’s always been a conservative thinker on politics and policy, and pushes back hard on the idea that he’s a flip-flopper. Clips like these, however, are going to make that argument a tough sell.
I believe Romney’s not really one or the other, but instead a political pragmatist who has no problem packaging himself well for the circumstances. That’s not an entirely bad thing, either; a pragmatist can get things accomplished, and a successful pragmatist can bend enough to get elected, as Romney did in Massachusetts. But in a cycle where conservatives want some authenticity even from a flawed candidate — like Newt Gingrich, for instance, or Rick Perry — these kind of statements are not going to instill confidence in Romney’s conservative credentials, and will have the grassroots continue looking for the most effective Not-Romney to support.
Update: Unabashed progressive David Corn at Mother Jones relates what Romney wrote in 2010 about progressivism:
In his 2010 book, No Apology: The Case for American Greatness, Romney huffed, “progressives…rejected the notion of universal truths, objective judgments, and, ironically, progress itself, embracing neutrality among competing belief sets and rejecting the primacy of Western civilization, the great thinkers of the ages, and the principles espoused by the Founding Parents of the nation.” Yet Romney once proudly declared himself a fellow of progressive views. Maybe he should apologize.