Romney joins the ranks of those opposed to debt limit deal

Prior to today, former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney didn’t have much to say about the ongoing debt limit negotiations. After the president’s prime time speech last week, he tweeted about President Barack Obama’s “historic leadership failure.” And after House Speaker John Boehner revealed his first compromise plan, Romney was briefly rumored to support it (but he never whole-heartedly issued his approbation). Today, Romney definitively ended his tight-lipped approach:

After days of refusing to take a position on the high-stakes budget talks, Republican presidential front-runner Mitt Romney came out on Monday against a last-minute deal to avoid a potentially economy-rattling government default.

Romney’s move allows him to continue to draw a stark contrast between his approach and President Obama’s economic stewardship, and it puts it him in line with the most conservative wing of his party. Without any public appearances on his schedule this week, Romney can avoid hard questions about the potential cons[e]quences of the plan’s failure.

“As president, my plan would have produced a budget that was cut, capped, and balanced — not one that opens the door to higher taxes and puts defense cuts on the table,” Romney said in a statement. “President Obama’s leadership failure has pushed the economy to the brink at the eleventh hour and 59th minute. While I appreciate the extraordinarily difficult situation President Obama’s lack of leadership has placed Republican members of Congress in, I personally cannot support this deal.”

Perhaps the statement lacks the credibility it would have carried had he been a long-time and vocal supporter of Cut, Cap and Balance, but I’m still pleased to see the ostensible GOP frontrunner (more on that later) tack to the right on this. Maybe he’s merely adhering to the time-tested strategy of pandering to the base in a primary, but it’s still encouraging, especially because he specifically cited the two most truly objectionable aspects of the new deal as the reasons for his opposition, which puts him on the record against tax hikes in the special commission’s recommendations. Either (a) he really means what he says and thinks a more forward-thinking, long-term approach like Cut, Cap and Balance would be better than the milquetoast deal the president and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell mustered at the last-minute or (b) he’s begun to feel the heat from his relentlessly conservative competitors in the GOP primary and recognizes that he’s going to have to pump up his conservative credentials if he wants to win the race. Certainly, with this position, Romney join the ranks of some solid organizations and individuals. (Among the groups opposing the latest iteration of a debt limit deal is my personal favorite, Heritage Action, which key-voted the ironically-titled Budget Control Act of 2012.)

The positions of the other GOP candidates were mostly predictable, but praiseworthy.

Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-Minn.) remained steadfast in her opposition to any kind of debt ceiling increase. “Somebody has to say ‘no,'” she said in a statement. “I will.”

Former Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty’s spokesman Alex Conant said the deal was nothing to celebrate. “Only in Washington would the political class think it’s a victory when the government narrowly avoids default, agrees to go further into debt, and does little to reform a spending system that cannot be sustained,” Conant said.

The only candidate to approve of the deal was former Utah Gov. Jon Huntsman.