Former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney said this week that as president he would allow individual states to keep abortion legal, two weeks after telling a national television audience that he supports a constitutional amendment to ban the procedure nationwide.
Mitt Romney is simply struggling to explain the Republican Party's conventional pro-life position. Which is: overturn Roe v. Wade. And then, slowly build up public support for a constitutional amendment banning abortions. ETA: 30 years or more.
This is not a flip-flop.
The reason why Romney is struggling to explain the complicated two-step is that he is relatively new to the dance. Pro-life activists who have been in the trenches for years are very comfortable with the nuance and subtlely of their beliefs and know how to translate them into morsels for the media's consumption. This measured, incremental approach -- relatively new to the movement -- has been successful in many ways.
Assuming that Romney's story of a late-in-life pro-life conversion is true -- and that's a reasonable assumption absent evidence to the contrary -- it's not surprising that he has trouble articulating, in soundbite form, what he believes -- especially to a media that's been conditioned to listen for nuance.
It's also true that everything Mitt Romney says about abortion will be scrutinized to see whether it comports with what he said last week, two months ago, three months ago. His advisers accept that, frustrating as it may be.
It's also true (so many truths) that a media report about Romney's alleged flip-flopping on abortion is dangerous. No matter what Republican campaigns and strategists say, if the media labels some-thing a flip-flop, it becomes, to many voters, a flip-flop -- even if, at the end of the day, before God himself, it isn't. That's unfair, in the scheme of things, but it's one of the reasons why the press remains powerful. Compare: if the media calls something Barack Obama says a "gaffe," it becomes a gaffe until the voters are convinced otherwise -- even if it wasn't a real, genuine gaffe in the first place.