Now that Mittens has gone on Fox and tried to Etch-a-Sketch his 47 percent comments, we've got the surrogates coming out to defend him. Here's the first one out of the gate this morning -- Campaign Surrogate Admits Romney Is Changing Positions Just To Win Votes:
October 5, 2012

Now that Mittens has gone on Fox and tried to Etch-a-Sketch his 47 percent comments, we've got the surrogates coming out to defend him. Here's the first one out of the gate this morning -- Campaign Surrogate Admits Romney Is Changing Positions Just To Win Votes:

Mitt Romney campaign surrogate Rep. Phil Gingrey (R-GA) admitted that the GOP presidential candidates was changing his positions and moving towards the middle in order to win over voters, during an appearance on CNN’s Starting Point on Friday morning. Gingrey’s comments, reminiscent of Romney advisor Eric Fehrnstrom’s claim that Romney would “Etch-A-Sketch” his positions after the GOP primary, came in response to the candidate’s recent claim that his 47% remarks were “completely wrong.”

“[T]he Republican, the conservative candidate in the primary, is always going to lean right and come back to the center for the general, the opposite for the Democrat,” Gingrey explained. “That’s all you are seeing here. It is very typical. We strong conservatives understand that. There are a lot of undecideds in this country…we want those votes too. So, this is campaign strategy.”

Romney began moving towards the center during Wednesday night’s debate, distancing himself from his $5 trillion tax cut plan, embracing portions of his Massachusetts health care law as a model for the states, faulting Wall Street reform for providing “the biggest kiss that’s been given to New York banks,” and considering eliminating tax deductions for oil companies.

I can't believe they're trying this stunt so close to the election and think they're going to come across as anything other than craven liars, but then, that's all Romney has done since he started campaigning, so it's nothing new. The man has been on every side of every topic imaginable, so why stop now? He's gotten some push back like this interview from the media, but for the most part he's been given a pass for his behavior.

Full transcript below the fold.

O'BRIEN: The big news this morning, of course, Mitt Romney saying he was completely wrong for his remarks about the 47 percent who don't pay income tax. Let's listen to what he said yesterday.


ROMNEY: Clearly in a campaign with hundreds, if not thousands, of speeches and question and answer sessions, now and then you will say something that doesn't come out right. In this case I said something that's completely wrong. And I absolutely believe, however, that my life has shown that I care about 100 percent.


O'BRIEN: Georgia Republican Congressman Phil Gingrey joins us this morning. What was your reaction to hearing that clip which was the governor's interview with Sean Hannity last night?

REP. PHIL GINGREY, (R) GEORGIA: Soledad, exactly right. And he cares about the 100 percent. I think he showed that in the debate a couple of nights ago, the real deal, the sincere, the caring, the compassionate, the strong Mitt Romney. And so I think his -- remark was exactly right to walk back and admitted he made a mistake. And -- the fact that he cares about 100 percent, that's the bottom line.

O'BRIEN: Some people might say well, that's just politically expedient. If you look at the history of that remark, back on September 17 in what was a hastily called press conference, he didn't say "I made a mistake, I'm walking back that remark. I was completely wrong." He said this. Let's play it.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: If you are not stepping away anything in this video, not backing away from it? And do you worry you offended the 47 percent you mentioned?

ROMNEY: It is not elegantly stated. I'm speaking off the cuff in response to a question and I'm sure I can state it more clearly and in a more effective way.


O'BRIEN: So he said it was of the cuff and it was sort of inelegantly stated. The next day when he was talking to -- I think Neil Cavuto, he said I meant what I said and he said this. Let's play that.


ROMNEY: This is a message I'm carrying day in ask day out and will carry over the coming months, which is this is a decision about the course of America and where we're going to head.


O'BRIEN: So today he is admitting he was wrong in your words. Isn't that just being a flip-flopper?

GINGREY: I don't think so at all. I think he got it right when he spoke with Sean Hannity last night when he said "I care about 100 percent of the people." It doesn't matter what income level they are at. And in particular, I care very strongly about the middle class. And he made that point during the debate over and over again.

O'BRIEN: He surely did.

GINGREY: Much to Obama's dismay.

O'BRIEN: I think you are right about that. My point would be that is completely contradictory to what he said the day after the original remark which was, basically, I meant what I said. This is a message I'm caring day in and day out and will carry over the coming months. One of those has to be true. Either what he said on the 18th or what he said yesterday. Isn't that the definition of a flip-flop?

GINGREY: I think what he said yesterday, Soledad, was 100 percent true.

O'BRIEN: So President Obama said that a different Mitt Romney showed up at the debate. Of course, he is trying to spin, you know, his not great performance in the debate or poor performance. Here is what he said. Listen.


BARACK OBAMA, (D) PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Whoever it was that was on stage last night doesn't want to be held accountable for what the real Mitt Romney has been saying for the last year. And that's because he knows full well that we don't want what he has been selling over the last year. Governor Romney may dance around his positions. He may do a tap dance and two-step. But if you want to be president, then you owe the American people the truth.


O'BRIEN: The President neglected to say that during the debate but doesn't he have a point there as he was on the campaign trail he was dancing around and this is now a flip from what he said very -- you know -- specifically before?

GINGREY: I have been watching and involved in presidential politics since 1960 when I first voted. And the Republican, the conservative candidate in the primary, is always going to lean right and come back to the center for the general, the opposite for the Democrat. That's all you are seeing here. It is very typical. We strong conservatives understand that. There are a lot of undecideds in this country that are hopefully right of center, not left of center, but we want those votes too. So this is campaign strategy. This is nothing new under the sun. And President Obama understands that for sure.

O'BRIEN: OK, then let's walk through that a little bit. When Eric Fehrnstrom was on my show not so long ago back on march 21, he talked about the etch-a-sketch moment and what you described, sir, very much sounds to me like an etch a sketch moment. I will play for you first what Eric Fehrnstrom said.


ERIC FEHRNSTROM, ROMNEY CAMPAIGN SPOKESMAN: I think he hit a reset button for the fall campaign. It is almost like an etch-a-sketch. You can shake it up and we start all over again. (END VIDEO CLIP)

O'BRIEN: So is that what you are saying, that this really is a definition of etch-a-sketch?

GINGREY: Well, I think it was very important for Governor Romney to let the American people know that he has the capability of working across the aisle, working with the Democrats.

He explained that carefully in regards to what happened with the health care law in Massachusetts. Eighty seven percent of the legislature in the commonwealth, Democrats, and he has the ability to work across the aisle.

Whereas President Obama crammed this health care law down the throats of Congress and the American people with not one Republican vote, didn't even ask for one. It was done between him and Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid.

O'BRIEN: And the point eloquently during the debate actually in the closing remarks. I thought he did that very well, but that's not exactly my question.

Because my question is what you said is during the campaign, you know, you lean to the right and then you come back to the center when you are actually in the general election.

So to me that is you say one thing for a certain audience to get them to support and you then say something different, maybe completely contradictory to another audience which some could define as lying. Is that an etch-a-sketch moment what we are seeing?

GINGREY: And some could refer to that as campaign tactics. Good campaign tactics without violating one's principle. I -- nobody is more conservative than -- Congress and House than Phil Gingrey. I'm in the top seven, tied for first.

I felt very comfortable with what the President said the other night during the debate. With what Mitt Romney said. I am very comfortable with his position. I have no doubt that he will govern to the right of center and that's where the American people are.

But at the same time, he will use his ability, his knowledge, his humility, his wisdom to work across the aisle and we have to do it, Soledad. You know that.

We cannot kick the can down the road anymore. We have to avoid this fiscal cliff. A new President Romney, our 45th president, will do that.

O'BRIEN: You are talking about campaign tactics and that's because an elected official. But for me, regular voter, I hear that and I think this is kind of what is wrong with politics.

You've just described -- we take one tactic and then you are going to completely change your position when talking to another audience. But you feel comfortable with that change because you feel that you know that he is going to govern to the right of center even though there are some changes that sound more left when he -- more centrist in Wednesday night's debate.

I guess, I understand someone -- who's campaign that may make sense for you, but I think for a lot of voters it just feels like basically campaigning can be lying.

GINGREY: Well, I wouldn't call it lying. A football team has a lot of players, as you know, when the coach gives that pep talk, it will -- maybe a little different what he says to the running backs and says to the linemen, but they are all on the same team. You have to pull everybody together. That's all Mitt Romney is doing.

O'BRIEN: All right, OK, sports metaphor on that. I'm sure a lot of people that will disagree with you. Congressman Gingrey, nice to see you, sir. We appreciate your time this morning. Thank you.

GINGREY: Soledad, thank you. Always good to be with you.

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