Romney backpedaling on anthropogenic global warming?

Two months ago, Mitt Romney declared that “I believe the world is getting warmer, and I believe that humans have contributed to that.”  The Republican candidate for President also said that “It’s important for us to reduce our emissions of pollutants and greenhouse gases that may be significant contributors.”  A week after taking that position on anthropogenic global warming (AGW), Romney’s camp made it clear that their candidate would not retreat from his position, although the new spin was that Romney wouldn’t do anything about it, either.

What a difference a summer makes:

Hours after being called “mushy on environmental issues” by a Republican senator, Mitt Romney has tweaked his position on global warming.

Asked Wednesday at a Lebanon, N.H., town hall meeting whether he believed in global warming and if humans contribute to rising temperatures, Romney said he doesn’t know.

“Do I think the world’s getting hotter? Yeah, I don’t know that but I think that it is,” Romney said, as reported by Reuters. “I don’t know if it’s mostly caused by humans.”

“What I’m not willing to do is spend trillions of dollars on something I don’t know the answer to,” he added.

The Republican Senator who called him “mushy” was James Inhofe of Oklahoma, who endorsed Rick Perry while offering that criticism of Romney.  Romney responded by becoming, well, mushier about AGW.  In June, Romney believed the world is getting warmer and that humans contributed to it.  Now he just thinks but doesn’t know if the world is becoming warmer, and doesn’t know if it is “mostly caused by humans.”  It’s not a total repudiation of his earlier statement, but it’s still a significant climbdown.

And you know who this helps?  It’s not Mitt Romney, that’s for sure.

In perhaps related news, Romney has declined an opportunity to address South Carolina conservatives next month in Senator Jim DeMint’s Palmetto Freedom Forum, an eye-opening choice:

Mitt Romney will not attend a Labor Day forum in South Carolina organized by conservative kingmaker Sen. Jim DeMint, who endorsed Romney’s run for president four years ago.

Romney spokesperson Ryan Williams, citing scheduling conflicts, said the candidate will instead spend the day in New Hampshire, sending another signal that the former Massachusetts governor is not focusing on the early Southern primary state like he did in 2008. He was not previously listed as attending the event by the organizers.

Last week CNN confirmed Texas Gov. Rick Perry, Minnesota Rep. Michele Bachmann, Texas Rep. Ron Paul and businessman Herman Cain will participate in the Palmetto Freedom Forum, to be held Sept. 5 in downtown Columbia. Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich accepted the invitation Tuesday becoming the fifth participant, the campaign confirmed via Twitter.

That’s a snub towards an influential conservative whom Romney might need to shore up his standing on the Right — if not now, then later down the line.  If he’s skipping it to campaign in New Hampshire, that suggests two possibilities, neither mutually exclusive.  Romney might figure that he has no chance in South Carolina with a southern Governor in the race, which is probably true.  He may also be concerned about his ability to hold New Hampshire, which would be very interesting indeed.  New Hampshire is his back yard, and while Romney is expected to campaign heavily there, having to stay put while passing on a chance to make his case in another important early primary state makes it seem as though Romney may be worried about Perry’s draw in the Granite State.