On Tuesday, the Republican National Committee’s National Hispanic Outreach Director claimed that Mitt Romney’s “still deciding what his position on immigration is,” kicking off a firestorm of criticism from reporters and bloggers wondering how the GOP’s presumptive nominee — a man who had been running for office for the last 18 years — had no defined view on immigration. The campaign walked back the remarks minutes later, linking to a page on the Romney campaign site touting his harsh immigration proposals.
But this episode is just the latest in a series of instances in which the candidate and his campaign have been unsure, uncertain, or unwilling to articulate a clear stance on an important policy issue for fear of offending a particular political demographic. It’s a careful dance that many politicians practice, but something in which Romney has engaged in with greater frequency than most:
— VIOLENCE AGAINST WOMEN ACT: As Congress considers a re-authorization of the Violence Against Women Act, Romney has claimed that he wasn’t “familiar with” the measure, said that he “supports it” and “hopes it can be reauthorized without turning it into a political football.” Conveniently, he has not specified if he supports House Republicans in their quest to exclude LGBT people, immigrants, and Native Americans from protections.
— EQUAL PAY: Although Romney later promised to preserve the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act, his campaign was initially unsure if Romney supported the measure, telling Huffington Post journalist Sam Stein, “Sam, we’ll get back to you on that.” In a follow-up interview with ABC’s Diane Sawyer, Romney refused to say if he would have signed the 2009 law.
— PAYROLL TAX HOLIDAY: In December of 2011, as the two chambers of Congress debated different versions of a bill to extend the payroll tax cut, Romney wouldn’t say if he sided with the House or Senate, dismissing the issue as an “internal battle.” “I’d like to see this payroll tax holiday extended,” Romney said, without saying for how long. He downplayed the debate as being “deep in the weeds” and offered only platitudes about hoping that the House and Senate “come together” to “get the job done.” “I’m not going to throw gasoline on what is already a fire,” he added.
— MISSISSIPPI PERSONHOOD: Romney repeatedly refused to take a position on Mississippi’s proposed personhood amendment, which voters overwhelmingly defeated in November. A campaign spokesperson told the New York Times, “Mitt Romney is pro-life,” but pointedly “declined to answer questions on personhood specifically, or on his stance toward various forms of birth control.” Only after the measure failed did the campaign claim that Romney “believes these matters should be left up to states to decide.”
— AFGHANISTAN: Romney’s electoral strategy seems to be to pander to those Americans that want to get out of Afghanistan, while also aiming to please those who want to stay — all by washing his hands of the entire decision and leaving it up to U.S. military commanders in Afghanistan. “I would listen to the generals,” Romney said on Newshour in November, “then of course I would pursue that course.” As the New York Times recently observed, “Mr. Romney has said repeatedly that he wants to bring troops home as soon as possible, but with the significant caveat that such a drawdown takes place when ‘our generals think it’s O.K.’ or ‘as soon as that mission is complete.'”
We’ll update the list as the situation warrants.