Reporting from Bethlehem, N.H. — With their political savvy and proximity to presidential candidates every four years, many New Hampshire voters fancy themselves to be quasi-political consultants. And in Bethlehem on Thursday morning, Randall Loiacono offered Mitt Romney some advice about what is widely viewed as one of his chief vulnerabilities — the fact that he has changed his mind on a number of issues over the years.
Speaking at an Elks Lodge after Romney had finished his remarks, the Littleton business owner noted that “none of us here have gone through life having made a decision and always stuck to it for the rest of their lives.”
"We’ve moved, we’ve changed spouses, we’ve changed businesses, jobs, college majors. What I’m trying to say is that I don’t know want a president or leader who is inflexible," Loiacono told the former Massachusetts governor. "I don’t want somebody who has made a decision on something maybe 10 years ago and, despite any new information, is going to stick to that decision.
"You’ve been painted by some of your opposition, from the Democrats and your fellow presidential primary seekers, as having flip-flopped on some issues. I would not run away from that …. The world changes, things change .… I don’t think it’s such a terrible thing to change your opinion on something. But I think it would useful to actually almost to wear it as a badge of course."
Romney, who headed a private equity firm for 15 years before entering public service, told Loiacono that he had "found more than once" that he’d been wrong and learned that if "you don’t recognize that you’re wrong and you keep sticking to a position that you had before you had all the data that you get later in your experience, why, they call you stubborn. And with time, you’d be likely to lose your job."
"There’s no question that over the experience of a lifetime, my views on some things have changed — not as many as my opponents might suggest," Romney told the mostly gray-haired crowd at the Elks Lodge. And he pointed to his reversal on abortion, which has made it difficult for him to win over some evangelical voters.
When Romney ran for the U.S. Senate in 1994 against Sen. Ted Kennedy and later for governor of Massachusetts in 2002, he said favored abortion rights, describing it as a "deeply personal" choice. But he has said his views changed after he studied the science behind stem-cell research.
"That was one where I thought I had the answer when I was running for governor, running for Senate back in 1994, then when I became governor and I actually was given a piece of legislation that would have created new life for the purpose of experimenting on it and then destroying it — new embryos, this was embryonic stem-cell research — I simply could not sign a bill that would take life. And I recognized that was just a very different course than I’d expected."
Romney noted that he wrote an op-ed column explaining why he had decided to oppose abortion rights, and "I have been convinced of that ever since."
After the event, Loiacono said he was satisfied with Romney’s answer and will support him in the Jan. 10 primary. (His second choice is Newt Gingrich, who he is worried has "been in Washington too long.") But he added that he hoped Romney would go a little further in defending his ability to consider new information and change his views. Perhaps he should consider a commercial, he said, asking Americans if they want a president who is inflexible or someone who can process new information and adjust.
"You’ve got the people on the left who are die-hard in one direction, you’ve got the people on the right who are die-hard in that direction, but most of the country is somewhere in between," Loiacono said. "Most of the country wants somebody who is not going to dig their heels in and be so damn stubborn."
"I’m getting pretty ticked off at both parties at this point — politicizing everything and nothing is getting done."