At first, it looked like little more than a classic Mitt Romney flip-flop.
It began Monday in Provo, Utah, where Romney—the former Republican presidential nominee, current Senate candidate, and noted Donald Trump antagonist—sought to make the case in a Q&A with voters that he was more conservative than the president on a range of issues.
Utah’s Daily Herald reported:
Romney went so far as to say he’s more conservative on certain issues than President Trump.
“For instance, I’m a deficit hawk,” Romney said. “That makes me more conservative than a lot of Republicans and a lot of Democrats. I’m also more of a hawk on immigration than even the president. My view was these DACA kids shouldn’t all be allowed to stay in the country legally.”
The DACA remark drew a predictable outcry from critics on both the left and the Never Trump right. Since 2016, Romney had positioned himself as one of the GOP’s most outspoken critics of the president—why was he now suddenly championing a Trumpian immigration platform?
Within 24 hours, his campaign appeared to be backtracking. When I emailed a Romney spokesperson a few follow-up questions about the candidate’s DACA position, she responded with a statement:
During his speech yesterday Gov. Romney made reference to his stance on immigration while running for president in 2012. Since then circumstances have changed. President Obama enacted DACA and Gov. Romney believes the commitment made by President Obama should be honored. Therefore, he agrees with President Trump's proposal to allow DACA recipients to legally stay in the country but does not support a special pathway to citizenship.
That statement, in turn, was greeted with a tsunami of Twitter snark, with critics casting it as the return of the craven, fence-straddling candidate they’d been ridiculing for years. Hay was made by Democrats, takes were made by pundits, and by Tuesday evening, everyone seemed to be moving on. But this brief episode offered an important reminder about what to expect from a Senator Romney.