I’m sympathetic to the notion that the news media’s coverage of the Etch A Sketch comments made by one of Mr. Romney’s top aides has been excessive. At the same time, the comments made by the adviser, Eric Fehrnstrom, will serve to remind voters of a major issue in the campaign: that Mr. Romney has substantially altered his positions on a wide range of issues since he ran for governor in Massachusetts in 2002.
Almost all presidential candidates shift their positions on some issues — toward the party base in the primaries, and then toward the center of the electorate if they receive the nomination. But there is not a lot of precedent for a presidential candidate whose shifts were so recent and broad-based.
In 2002, as well as during his Senate campaign in 1994, Mr. Romney very explicitly ran as a moderate, especially on social issues. His campaign’s Web site in 2002 told voters that he would support “the strict enforcement of gun laws” and recognition of domestic partnership for same-sex couples, that he would “protect the current pro-choice status quo in Massachusetts,” and that he endorsed an increase in the minimum wage.