When a Mitt Romney adviser said that the campaign’s shift to the general election would be like shaking an Etch A Sketch, I predicted that it wouldn’t be a big deal for Romney, mostly because coating his campaign in a veneer of centrism is what the mainstream press desperately wants Romney to do. If Romney succeeds at that, journalists will feel they’re not being irresponsible by continuing to treat the Republican Party as a sane and dependable part of our national governing coalition, rather than as the sociopathic organization it’s become.

Well, the Etch A Sketch remark did get Romney in trouble, but the mainstream press still craves a centrist Mitt, and journalists will grasp at any straw as they endeavor to reassure themselves of his reasonableness. So we get Thomas Edsall, at the Campaign Stops blog of The New York Times, writing “Romney the Centrist Peeks Out”:

It was just one line slipped into the middle of a paragraph of Mitt Romney’s speech on April 3 celebrating his primary victories in Wisconsin, Maryland and the District of Columbia: “And the most vulnerable have been hurt the most — over 30 percent of single moms are struggling in poverty.”

Seemingly unremarkable, these 19 words represent one of the many steps Romney will be taking as he treks back to the center in the aftermath of a primary campaign dominated by the hard right. It was only two months ago, after all, that Romney told CNN: “I’m not concerned about the very poor. We have a safety net there.”

Without drawing attention to his rhetorical shift, Romney, in a speech on March 30 at Lawrence University in Appleton, Wisc., abandoned his attack on President Obama’s “entitlement society,” faulting Obama’s “government-centered society” instead….

Wait — “government-centered society” is less rhetorically right-wing than “entitlement society”? Can someone please explain to me how that works? Do you know what other GOP presidential candidate used that expression in this campaign? This guy:

Republican presidential candidate Herman Cain on Wednesday said his rival Mitt Romney would have to “deal with” the health care law he passed in Massachusetts, which Cain grouped with ObamaCare as “government-centered” health care.

Herman Cain is now a centrist?

Not long ago, we were mocking Rick Santorum — correctly, I might add — for saying, “Public schools? That’s a nice way of putting it. These are government-run schools.” So “Government-run” is far-right rhetoric, but “government-centered” is centrist?

And, yes, it’s swell that Romney mentioned the fact that “over 30 percent of single moms are struggling in poverty.” But this isn’t the first time he’s said anything like this. In a December speech, he said, “More Americans have lost their homes and more Americans have slipped from the middle class into a world of poverty they never imagined.” In a speech last June, he said,

Unemployment is not just a statistic. Unemployment means kids can’t go to college; that marriages break up under the financial strain; that young people can’t find work and start their lives; and men and women in their 50s, in the prime of their lives, fear they will never find a job again. President Obama has failed these good and decent Americans.

Sixteen million Americans are out of work or have stopped looking for work. Make no mistake. This is a moral tragedy — a moral tragedy of epic proportion.

And guess what? Since those two speeches, he’s said all the cold, unfeeling things we’ve mocked him for. He’s consistently given us both kinds of talk. Was the June speech a sign of a new, compassionate Romney? Was the December speech? The primary campaign answers that question.

Sorry — you media pros really, really want Romney to be a changed man. He’s not a changed man.

(X-posted at No More Mister Nice Blog.)

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