Alternate headline: “Mitt Romney is concerned about the very poor.”

You make the call. Is this (a) a pander aimed at doing damage control for this morning’s gaffe heard ’round the political world, (b) an early sign of Romney’s inevitable shift towards the center in the general election, or (c) a way to inoculate himself from new anti-Bain attacks from Newt? The Hill calls this “a break from fiscal conservative orthodoxy,” but that reminds me of Dan McLaughlin’s piece a few weeks ago remembering how the party ended up defending Nixon on his many breaks from conservative orthodoxy too. The haunting quote: “We can stand for Romney, but we’ll find soon enough that that’s all we stand for.” I guess soon enough we’ll stand for this:

Republican presidential contender Mitt Romney renewed his support Wednesday for automatic increases in the federal minimum wage to keep pace with inflation, a position sharply at odds with traditional GOP business allies, conservatives and the party’s senior lawmakers…

Congress first enacted federal minimum wage legislation in 1938 and has raised it sporadically in the years since. The last increase, approved in 2007, took effect in three installments and reached $7.25 an hour for covered workers effective July 24, 2009.

It has never been allowed to rise automatically, as Romney envisions.

Organized labor generally supports increases in the minimum wage, and Romney’s position could give him cross-over appeal among blue-collar Democrats in a general election campaign.

In case you can’t guess what the Chamber of Commerce thinks this will do to small businesses, follow the first link up top and scroll down. Question: Is this yet another Romney flip flop? Kinda sorta, says The Hill:

“I haven’t changed my thoughts on that,” Romney told reporters aboard his campaign plane Wednesday, according to the Associated Press. The former governor was apparently referring to a statement he made in 2002 when running for governor of Massachusetts, when he advocated an increase in the minimum wage and indexing it to inflation – a proposal President Obama touted in 2008 during his presidential run.

But in 2006 Romney vetoed an increase in Massachusetts’s minimum wage, arguing that a salary hike would cause a loss of jobs.

It’s his health care spin in reverse: He defends RomneyCare on grounds that it wasn’t a one-size-fits-all plan imperiously imposed on the entire country, and yet when it comes to minimum wage hikes, he thinks the one-size-fits-all option is apparently way to go. Mystifying, especially since he’s on record as governor as saying that the minimum wage kills jobs. Maybe he figures that if he came out against this now, the media would dig up his 2002 support for a minimum wage hike and use it to call him a flip-flopper? I’m having trouble understanding it otherwise except as a pure pander. But take it as further evidence that Mark Steyn was right in his post this morning at the Corner about Romney’s “safety net” comments: Whatever else you’re getting by electing this guy, it’s not a warrior against the “Even Greater Society.”

Via BuzzFeed, here he is this afternoon (after being glitter-bombed) reminding conservatives again that he really, really loves America.